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Saint Paul 


Translated by Ray Brassier 


Cultural Memory 


Mieke Bal and Hent de Vries, Editors 


The Foundation of Universalism 

Alain Badiou 

Translated by Ray Brassier 




Stanford University Press 
Stanford, California 

© 2003 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All 
rights reserved. 

Originally published as Saint Paul: La fondation de luniversalisme , © 1997 by 
Presses Universitaires de France 

Assistance for the translation was provided by the French Ministry of Culture. 
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free, archival-quality paper. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
Badiou, Alain. 

[Saint Paul. English] 

Saint Paul : the foundation of universalism / Alain Badiou; translated by Ray 

p. cm.—(Cultural memory in the present) 

ISBN 0-8047-4470-X (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN 0-8047-4471-8 (alk. paper) 

1. Paul, the Apostle, Saint. 2. Bible N.T. Epistles of Paul—Criticism, inter¬ 
pretation, etc. 3. Universalism—Biblical teaching. I. Title. II. Series. 
BS2650.52.B3313 2003 

225.9'2—dc2i 2002154091 

Original printing 2003 

Last figure below indicates year of this printing: 

12 11 10 09 08 07 06 

Designed and typeset at Stanford University Press in 11/13.5 Garamond 

Translator's Note 

1 Paul: Our Contemporary 

2 Who Is Paul? 

3 Texts and Contexts 

4 Theory of Discourses 

5 The Division of the Subject 

6 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

7 Paul Against the Law 

8 Love as Universal Power 

9 Hope 

10 Universality and the Traversal of Differences 

11 In Conclusion 

Translator’s Note 

In rendering quotations from Paul into English, I consulted the 
Authorized, Revised Standard, and New Revised Standard Versions of his 
epistles. Since my aim was to stick as closely as possible to Badiou’s own 
French rendition, I found the best results were obtained through a selec¬ 
tive combination of the Authorized and Revised Standard Versions. I al¬ 
tered or adjusted formulations from both whenever necessary. I trans¬ 
lated the quotations from Pascals Perishes in Chapter 4 myself. For the 
Nietzsche quotations in Chapters 5 and 6, I used R. J. Hollingdale’s 
translation of The Anti-Christ (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 
1990). These were slightly altered to fit the French version used by Ba- 

This is a book principally concerned with using Paul to redefine the 
philosophical category of “the subject” as a “universal singularity.” Given 
this putative universality, many readers will balk at the persistent use of 
the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to this newly defined “subject.” Al¬ 
though sujet in French is a masculine noun for which the corresponding 
masculine pronoun //(which means both “he” and “it”) is habitually sub¬ 
stituted, it has become customary in English translations of contempo¬ 
rary French philosophical texts to correct this gender bias by stipulating 
“he or she” (or “it”) whenever the French has //standing in for a term like 
sujet. However, in the context of the present work, two considerations 
rendered this customary tactic particularly problematic: the first, practi¬ 
cal and stylistic; the second, substantive and thematic. First, from a 
purely practical point of view, there were too many sentences in which 
the concatenation of abstract nouns meant that using the pronoun “it” to 
refer to “the subject” would have created ambiguity at best, unacceptable 

x Translator's Note 

confusion at worst. In addition, there were equally many instances in 
which substituting “he or she” for “it” would have destroyed the rhythm, 
poise, and symmetry of Badious meticulously constructed sentences. Al¬ 
though such practical and stylistic considerations invited a disinterested 

choice between the consistent use of either “he” or “she,” it was the sec- SAINT PAUL 

ond, more substantive and thematic point of view that seemed to render 

the use of the masculine pronoun appropriate and that finally persuaded 

me to opt for “he.” I refer here to Badious explicit comments throughout 

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 about the “filiation” of the Pauline subject, a filiation 

necessitating the latter s unequivocal characterization as a Son (in French, 

filiation already contains the word fils , “son”). 

I would like to thank Alberto Toscano and Peter Hallward for their 
friendly but indispensable advice. 



Strange enterprise. For a long time, this figure has accompanied me, 
along with others: Mallarme, Cantor, Archimedes, Plato, Robespierre, 
Conrad . . . (and this is without venturing into our own century). Fifteen 
years ago, I wrote a play, The Incident at Antioch , whose heroine was 
named Paula. The change of sex probably prevented too explicit an iden¬ 
tification. For me, truth be told, Paul is not an apostle or a saint. I care 
nothing for the Good News he declares, or the cult dedicated to him. But 
he is a subjective figure of primary importance. I have always read the 
epistles the way one returns to those classic texts with which one is par¬ 
ticularly familiar; their paths well worn, their details abolished, their 
power preserved. No transcendence, nothing sacred, perfect equality of 
this work with every other, the moment it touches me personally. A man 
emphatically inscribed these phrases, these vehement and tender ad¬ 
dresses, and we may draw upon them freely, without devotion or repul¬ 
sion. All the more so in my case, since, irreligious by heredity, and even 
encouraged in the desire to crush the clerical infamy by my four grand¬ 
parents, all of whom were teachers, I encountered the epistles late, the 
way one encounters curious texts whose poetry astonishes. 

Basically, I have never really connected Paul with religion. It is not 
according to this register, or to bear witness to any sort of faith, or even 
antifaith, that I have, for a long time, been interested in him. No more 

2 Prologue 

Prologue 3 

so, to tell the truth—but the impression was less striking—than I seized 
hold of Pascal, Kierkegaard, or Claudel, on the basis of what was explic¬ 
itly Christian in their discourse. Anyway, the crucible in which what will 
become a work of art and thought burns is brimful with nameless impu¬ 
rities; it comprises obsessions, beliefs, infantile puzzles, various perver¬ 
sions, undivulgeable memories, haphazard reading, and quite a few idio¬ 
cies and chimeras. Analyzing this alchemy is of little use. 

For me, Paul is a poet-thinker of the event, as well as one who prac¬ 
tices and states the invariant traits of what can be called the militant fig¬ 
ure. He brings forth the entirely human connection, whose destiny fasci¬ 
nates me, between the general idea of a rupture, an overturning, and that 
of a thought-practice that is this ruptures subjective materiality. 

If today I wish to retrace in a few pages the singularity of this con¬ 
nection in Paul, it is probably because there is currently a widespread 
search for a new militant figure—even if it takes the form of denying its 
possibility—called upon to succeed the one installed by Lenin and the 
Bolsheviks at the beginning of the century, which can be said to have 
been that of the party militant. 

When a step forward is the order of the day, one may, among other 
things, find assistance in the greatest step back. Whence this reactivation 
of Paul. I am not the first to risk the comparison that makes of him a 
Lenin for whom Christ will have been the equivocal Marx. 

My intention, clearly, is neither historicizing nor exegetical. It is 
subjective through and through. I have confined myself strictly to those 
texts of Paul that have been authenticated by contemporary scholarship 
and to the relation they bear to my thought. 

For the Greek original, I used the Novum Testamentum Graece , in 
Nestle-Aland’s critical edition, published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 
in 1993. 

The basic French text, whose formulations I have sometimes al¬ 
tered, is dial by Louis Segond, Le Nouveau Testament , published by the 
Trinitarian Bible Society (1993 edition). 

References to the epistles follow the customary arrangement by 
chapter and verse. Thus, Rom. 1.25 means: epistle to the Romans, chap¬ 
ter 1, verse 25. Similarly, we will say Gal. for the epistle to the Galatians, 
Cor. I and Cor. II for the two epistles to the Corinthians, Philipp, for the 

epistle to the Philippians, and Thess. I for the first epistle to the Thessa- 

For anyone interested in further reading, I would at least like to in¬ 
dicate two works from among the colossal secondary literature on Paul: 

Stanislas Bretons robust little book, Saint Paul (Paris: Presses Uni- 
versitaire de France, 2000). 

Gunther Bornkamms Paul, translated by D.M.G. Stalker (Min¬ 
neapolis: Fortress Press, 1995). 

A Catholic, a Protestant. May they form a triangle with the atheist. 

Paul: Our Contemporary 5 

Paul: Our Contemporary 

Why Saint Paul? Why solicit this “apostle” who is all the more sus¬ 
pect for having, it seems, proclaimed himself such and whose name is fre¬ 
quently tied to Christianity’s least open, most institutional aspects: the 
Church, moral discipline, social conservatism, suspiciousness toward 
Jews? How are we to inscribe this name into the development of our proj¬ 
ect: to refound a theory of the Subject that subordinates its existence to 
the aleatory dimension of the event as well as to the pure contingency of 
multiple-being without sacrificing the theme of freedom? 

Similarly, one will ask: What use do we claim to make of the appa¬ 
ratus of Christian faith, an apparatus from which it seems strictly impos¬ 
sible to dissociate the figure and texts of Paul? Why invoke and analyze 
this fable? Let us be perfectly clear: so far as we are concerned, what we 
are dealing with here is precisely a fable. And singularly so in the case of 
Paul, who for crucial reasons reduces Christianity to a single statement: 
Jesus is resurrected. Yet this is precisely a fabulous element [point fabu- 
leux ], since all the rest, birth, teachings, death, might after all be upheld. 
A Table” is that part of a narrative that, so far as we are concerned, fails 
to touch on any Real, unless it be by virtue of that invisible and indirectly 
accessible residue sticking to every obvious imaginary. In this regard, it is 
to its element of fabulation [point de fable] alone that Paul reduces the 
Christian narrative, with the strength of one who knows that in holding 

fast to this point as real, one is unburdened of all the imaginary that sur¬ 
rounds it. If it is possible for us to speak of belief from the outset (but 
Pauls entire problem concerns the question of belief or faith, or of that 
which is presupposed beneath the word pistis ), let us say that so far as we 
are concerned it is rigorously impossible to believe in the resurrection of 
the crucified. 

Paul is a distant figure in a threefold sense: his historical site; his 
role as Church founder; and his provocative centering of thought upon 
its fabulous element. 

We are duty-bound to explain why we are investing this distance 
with the weight of a philosophical proximity, why the fabulous forcing of 
the real provides us with mediation when it is a question of restoring the 
universal to its pure secularity, here and now. 

We are doubtless assisted in this by the fact that—for example— 
Hegel, Auguste Comte, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, and again in our 
own time, Jean-Fran^ois Lyotard, have also found it necessary to examine 
the figure of Paul and have done so, moreover, always in terms of some 
extreme dispositions (foundational or regressive, destinal or forgetful, ex¬ 
emplary or catastrophic) in order to organize their own speculative dis¬ 

For our own part, what we shall focus on in Pauls work is a singu¬ 
lar connection, which it is formally possible to disjoin from the fable and 
of which Paul is, strictly speaking, the inventor: the connection that es¬ 
tablishes a passage between a proposition concerning the subject and an 
interrogation concerning the law. Let us say that, for Paul, it is a matter 
of investigating which law is capable of structuring a subject devoid of all 
identity and suspended to an event whose only “proof” lies precisely in 
its having been declared by a subject. 

What is essential for us is that this paradoxical connection between 
a subject without identity and a law without support provides the foun¬ 
dation for the possibility of a universal teaching within history itself. 
Pauls unprecedented gesture consists in subtracting truth from the com¬ 
munitarian grasp, be it that of a people, a city, an empire, a territory, or a 
social class. What is true (or just; they are the same in this case) cannot be 
reduced to any objective aggregate, either by its cause or by its destina¬ 

6 Paul: Our Contemporary 

Paul: Our Contemporary 7 

It will be objected that, in the present case, for us “truth” designates 
a mere fable. Granted, but what is important is the subjective gesture 
grasped in its founding power with respect to the generic conditions of 
universality. That the content of the fable must be abandoned leaves as its 
remainder the form of these conditions and, in particular, the ruin of 
every attempt to assign the discourse of truth to preconstituted historical 

To sharply separate each truth procedure from the cultural “his¬ 
toricity” wherein opinion presumes to dissolve it: such is the operation in 
which Paul is our guide. 

To rethink this gesture, to unravel its twists and turns, to enliven 
its singularity, its instituting force, is without doubt a contemporary ne¬ 

What, in effect, does our contemporary situation consist of? The 
progressive reduction of the question of truth (and hence, of thought) to 
a linguistic form, judgment—a point on which Anglophone analytical 
ideology and the hermeneutical tradition both concur (the analytic/ 
hermeneutic doublet is the straightjacket of contemporary academic phi¬ 
losophy)—ends up in a cultural and historical relativism that today con¬ 
stitutes at once a topic of public opinion, a “political” motivation, and a 
framework for research in the human sciences. The extreme forms of this 
relativism, already at work, claim to relegate mathematics itself to an 
“Occidental” setup, to which any number of obscurantist or symbolically 
trivial apparatuses could be rendered equivalent, provided one is able to 
name the subset of humanity that supports this apparatus, and, better 
still, that one has reasons for believing this subset to be made up of vic¬ 
tims. All access to the universal, which neither tolerates assignation to 
the particular, nor maintains any direct relation with the status— 
whether it be that of dominator or victim—of the sites from which its 
proposition emerges, collapses when confronted with this intersection 
between culturalist ideology and the “victimist” [ victimaire ] conception 
of man. 

What is the real unifying factor behind this attempt to promote the 
cultural virtue of oppressed subsets, this invocation of language in order 
to extol communitarian particularisms (which, besides language, always 
ultimately refer back to race, religion, or gender)? It is, evidently, mone¬ 

tary abstraction, whose false universality has absolutely no difficulty ac¬ 
commodating the kaleidoscope of communitarianisms. The lengthy years 
of communist dictatorship will have had the merit of showing that fi¬ 
nancial globalization, the absolute sovereignty of capitals empty univer¬ 
sality, had as its only genuine enemy another universal project, albeit a 
corrupt and bloodstained one: that only Lenin and Mao truly frightened 
those who proposed to boast unreservedly about the merits of liberalism 
and the general equivalent, or the democratic virtues of commercial com¬ 
munication. The senescent collapse of the USSR, the paradigm of social¬ 
ist States, provisionally suspended fear, unleashed empty abstraction, de¬ 
based thought in general. And it is certainly not by renouncing the 
concrete universality of truths in order to affirm the rights of “minori¬ 
ties,” be they racial, religious, national, or sexual, that the devastation will 
be slowed down. No, we will not allow the rights of true-thought to have 
as their only instance monetarist free exchange and its mediocre political 
appendage, capitalist-parliamentarianism, whose squalor is ever more 
poorly dissimulated behind the fine word “democracy.” 

This is why Paul, himself the contemporary of a monumental fig¬ 
ure of the destruction of all politics (the beginnings of that military des¬ 
potism known as “the Roman Empire”), interests us in the highest de¬ 
gree. He is the one who, assigning to the universal a specific connection 
of law and the subject, asks himself with the most extreme rigor what 
price is to be paid for this assignment, by the law as well as by the subject. 
This interrogation is precisely our own. Supposing we were able to re¬ 
found the connection between truth and the subject, then what conse¬ 
quences must we have the strength to hold fast to, on the side of truth 
(evental [ evtnementielle ] and hazardous) as well as on the side of the sub¬ 
ject (rare and heroic)? 

It is by confronting this question, and no other, that philosophy 
can assume its temporal condition without becoming a means of cover¬ 
ing up the worst. That it can measure up to the times in which we live 
otherwise than by flattering their savage inertia. 

In the case of our own country, France, of the public destiny of its 
State, what can we point to in the way of a noticeable tendency of the last 
fifteen years? Notwithstanding, of course, the constant expansion of cap- 
itafs automatic functioning that shelters behind the signifiers of Europe 

8 Paul: Our Contemporary 

and liberalism, an expansion that, being the law of the world-market, 
cannot be taken as specific to our site. 

Alas, the only thing we can point to by way of reply to this question 
is the permanent installation of Le Pens party,* a truly national singular¬ 
ity, whose equivalent we have to go all the way to Austria to find, hardly 
a flattering comparison. And what constitutes this party’s unique maxim? 
The maxim that none of the parliamentary parties dare directly oppose, 
so that they all vote for or tolerate those increasingly villainous laws that 
are implacably deduced from it? The maxim in question is: “France for 
the French.” In the case of the State, this leads back to what served as the 
paradoxical name given by Petain to a puppet state, zealous servant of the 
Nazi occupier: the French State. How does the noxious question “What 
is a French person?” come to install itself at the heart of the public 
sphere? But everyone knows there is no tenable answer to this question 
other than through the persecution of those people arbitrarily designated 
as the non-French. The unique political real proper to the word “French,” 
when the latter is upheld as a founding category in the State, is the in¬ 
creasingly insistent installation of relentlessly discriminatory measures 
targeting people who are here, or who are trying to live here. And it is 
particularly striking that this persecutory real proper to identitarian logic 
(the Law is only valid for the French) gathers under the same banner—as 
is shown by the sorry affair of the foulard **—resigned advocates of capi¬ 
talist devastation (persecution is inevitable because unemployment pre¬ 
cludes all hospitality) and advocates of a “French republic” as ghostly as 
it is exceptional (foreigners are only tolerable so long as they “integrate” 
themselves into the magnificent model presented to them by our pure in¬ 

*A reference to Jean-Marie Le Pens Front National, an extreme right-wing 
party that continues to enjoy significant electoral success in France.—Trans. 

**L’ajfaire du foulard refers to a controversy over the wearing of the tradi¬ 
tional Muslim headscarf (foulard) by young Arab women in French secondary 
schools. Since the French educational system explicitly prohibits the wearing of 
religious garb or paraphernalia in class, some teachers protested and refused to 
teach students who insisted on wearing the headscarf, arguing that tolerating the 
infraction of one ethnic group provided a dangerous precedent that could only 
incite students of other religious denominations to follow suit, thereby under¬ 
mining the French educational system’s secular ethos.—Trans. 

Paul: Our Contemporary 9 

stitutions, our astonishing systems of education and representation). 
Proof that, so far as peoples real lives and what happens to them is con¬ 
cerned, there exists a despicable complicity between the globalized logic 
of capital and French identitarian fanaticism. 

What is being constructed before our very eyes is the communita- 
rization of the public sphere, the renunciation of the laws transcendent 
neutrality. The State is supposed to assure itself primarily and perma¬ 
nently of the genealogically, religiously, and racially verifiable identity of 
those for whom it is responsible. It is required to define two, perhaps 
even three, distinct regions of the law, according to whether the latter are 
truly French, integrated or integratable foreigners, or finally foreigners 
who are declared to be unintegrated, or even unintegratable. The law 
thereby falls under the control of a “national” model devoid of any real 
principle, unless it be that of the persecutions it initiates. Abandoning all 
universal principle, identitarian verification—which is never anything 
but police monitoring—comes to take precedence over the definition or 
application of the law. This means that, just as under Petain, when min¬ 
isters saw nothing wrong in surreptitiously defining the Jew as prototype 
of the non-French, all legislation would be accompanied by the required 
identitarian protocols, and subsets of the population would come to be 
defined each time by their special status . This arrangement is taking its 
course, as successive governments each bring to it their own special 
touch. We are dealing with a rampant “Petainization” of the State. 

How clearly Pauls statement rings out under these conditions! A 
genuinely stupefying statement when one knows the rules of the ancient 
world: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, 
there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3.28)! And how appropriate, for 
we who will unproblematically replace God by this or that truth, and 
Good by the service this truth requires, the maxim “Glory, honor, and 
peace for every one that does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 
For God shows no partiality” (Rom. 2.10). 

Our world is in no way as “complex” as those who wish to ensure 
its perpetuation claim. It is even, in its broad outline, perfectly simple. 

On the one hand, there is an extension of the automatisms of cap¬ 
ital, fulfilling one of Marx’s inspired predictions: the world finally config¬ 
ured, but as a market, as a world-market. This configuration imposes the 

io Paul: Our Contemporary 

Paul: Our Contemporary 


rule of an abstract homogenization. Everything that circulates falls under 
the unity of a count, while inversely, only what lets itself be counted in 
this way can circulate. Moreover, this is the norm that illuminates a par¬ 
adox few have pointed out: in the hour of generalized circulation and the 
phantasm of instantaneous cultural communication, laws and regulations 
forbidding the circulation of persons are being multiplied everywhere. So 
it is that in France, never have fewer foreigners settled than in the recent 
period! Free circulation of what lets itself be counted, yes, and above all 
of capital, which is the count of the count. Free circulation of that un¬ 
countable infinity constituted by a singular human life, never! For capi¬ 
talist monetary abstraction is certainly a singularity, but a singularity that 
has no consideration for any singularity whatsoever, singularity as indiffer¬ 
ent to the persistent infinity of existence as it is to the evental becoming 
of truths. 

On the other side, there is a process of fragmentation into closed 
identities, and the culturalist and relativist ideology that accompanies this 

Both processes are perfectly intertwined. For each identification 
(the creation or cobbling together of identity) creates a figure that pro¬ 
vides a material for its investment by the market. There is nothing more 
captive, so far as commercial investment is concerned, nothing more 
amenable to the invention of new figures of monetary homogeneity, than 
a community and its territory or territories. The semblance of a non¬ 
equivalence is required so that equivalence itself can constitute a process. 
What inexhaustible potential for mercantile investments in this up¬ 
surge—taking the form of communities demanding recognition and so- 
called cultural singularities—of women, homosexuals, the disabled, 
Arabs! And these infinite combinations of predicative traits, what a god¬ 
send! Black homosexuals, disabled Serbs, Catholic pedophiles, moderate 
Muslims, married priests, ecologist yuppies, the submissive unemployed, 
prematurely aged youth! Each time, a social image authorizes new prod¬ 
ucts, specialized magazines, improved shopping malls, “free” radio sta¬ 
tions, targeted advertising networks, and finally, heady “public debates” 
at peak viewing times. Deleuze put it perfectly: capitalist deterritorializa- 
tion requires a constant reterritorialization. Capital demands a perma¬ 
nent creation of subjective and territorial identities in order for its prin¬ 

ciple of movement to homogenize its space of action; identities, more¬ 
over, that never demand anything but the right to be exposed in the same 
way as others to the uniform prerogatives of the market. The capitalist 
logic of the general equivalent and the identitarian and cultural logic of 
communities or minorities form an articulated whole. 

This articulation plays a constraining role relative to every truth 
procedure. It is organically without truth. 

On the one hand, every truth procedure breaks with the axiomatic 
principle that governs the situation and organizes its repetitive series. A 
truth procedure interrupts repetition and can therefore not be supported 
by the abstract permanence proper to a unity of the count. A truth is al¬ 
ways, according to the dominant law of the count, subtracted from the 
count. Consequently, no truth can be sustained through capitals homo¬ 
geneous expansion. 

But, on the other hand, neither can a truth procedure take root in 
the element of identity. For if it is true that every truth erupts as singular, 
its singularity is immediately universalizable. Universalizable singularity 
necessarily breaks with identitarian singularity. 

That there are intertwined histories, different cultures and, more 
generally, differences already abundant in one and the “same” individual, 
that the world is multicolored, that one must let people live, eat, dress, 
imagine, love in whichever way they please, is not the issue, whatever cer¬ 
tain disingenuous simpletons may want us to think. Such liberal truisms 
are cheap, and one would only like to see those who proclaim them not 
react so violently whenever confronted with the slightest serious attempt 
to dissent from their own puny liberal difference. Contemporary cos¬ 
mopolitanism is a beneficent reality. We simply ask that its partisans not 
get themselves worked up at the sight of a young veiled woman, lest we 
begin to fear that what they really desire, far from a real web of shifting 

differences, is the uniform dictatorship of what they take to be “moder- 

• » 

It is a question of knowing what identitarian and communitarian 
categories have to do with truth procedures, with political procedures for 
example. We reply: these categories must be absented from the process, 
failing which no truth has the slightest chance of establishing its persist¬ 
ence and accruing its immanent infinity. We know, moreover, that the 

12 Paul: Our Contemporary 

Paul: Our Contemporary 13 

most consequential instances of identitarian politics, such as Nazism, are 
bellicose and criminal. The idea that one can wield such categories inno¬ 
cently, even in the form of French “republican” identity, is inconsistent. 
One will, of necessity, end up oscillating between the abstract universal of 
capital and localized persecutions. 

The contemporary world is thus doubly hostile to truth procedures. 
This hostility betrays itself though nominal occlusions: where the name 
of a truth procedure should obtain, another, which represses it, holds 
sway. The name “culture” comes to obliterate that of “art.” The word 
“technology” obliterates the word “science.” The word “management” 
obliterates the word “politics.” The word “sexuality” obliterates love. The 
“culture-technology-management-sexuality” system, which has the im¬ 
mense merit of being homogeneous to the market, and all of whose terms 
designate a category of commercial presentation, constitutes the modern 
nominal occlusion of the “art-science-politics-love” system, which identi¬ 
fies truth procedures typologically. 

Now, far from returning toward an appropriation of this typology, 
identitarian or minoritarian logic merely proposes a variant on its nomi¬ 
nal occlusion by capital. It inveighs against every generic concept of art, 
putting the concept of culture in its place, conceived as culture of the 
group, as the subjective or representative glue for the groups existence, a 
culture that addresses only itself and remains potentially nonuniversaliz- 
able. Moreover, it does not hesitate to posit that this cultures constitutive 
elements are only fully comprehensible on the condition that one belong 
to the subset in question. Whence catastrophic pronouncements of the 
sort: only a homosexual can “understand” what a homosexual is, only an 
Arab can understand what an Arab is, and so forth. If, as we believe, only 
truths (thought) allow man to be distinguished from the human animal 
that underlies him, it is no exaggeration to say that such minoritarian 
pronouncements are genuinely barbaric . In the case of science, cultural- 
ism promotes the technical particularity of subsets to the equivalent of 
scientific thought, so that antibiotics, Shamanism, the laying on of 
hands, or emollient herbal teas all become of equal worth. In the case of 
politics, the consideration of identitarian traits provides the basis for de¬ 
termination, be it the state s or the protestor s, and finally it is a matter of 
stipulating, through law or brute force, an authoritarian management of 

these traits (national, religious, sexual, and so on) considered as dominant 
political operators. Lastly, in the case of love, there will be the comple¬ 
mentary demands, either for the genetic right to have such and such a 
form of specialized sexual behavior recognized as a minoritarian identity; 
or for the return, pure and simple, to archaic, culturally established con¬ 
ceptions, such as that of strict conjugality, the confinement of women, 
and so forth. It is perfectly possible to combine the two, as becomes ap¬ 
parent when homosexual protest concerns the right to be reincluded in 
the grand traditionalism of marriage and the family, or to take responsi¬ 
bility for the defrocking of a priest with the Popes blessing. 

The two components of the articulated whole (abstract homogene¬ 
ity of capital and identitarian protest) are in a relation of reciprocal main¬ 
tenance and mirroring. Who will maintain the self-evident superiority of 
the competent-cultivated-sexually liberated manager? But who will de¬ 
fend the corrupt-religious-polygamist terrorist? Or eulogize the cultural- 
marginal-homeopathic-media-friendly transsexual? Each figure gains its 
rotating legitimacy from the others discredit. Yet at the same time, each 
draws on the resources of the other, since the transformation of the most 
typical, most recent communitarian identities into advertising selling 
points and salable images has for its counterpart the ever more refined 
competence that the most insular or most violent groups display when it 
comes to speculating on the financial markets or maintaining a large-scale 
arms commerce. 

Breaking with all this (neither monetary homogeneity nor identi¬ 
tarian protest; neither the abstract universality of capital nor the particu¬ 
larity of interests proper to a subset), our question can be clearly formu¬ 
lated: What are the conditions for a universal singularity ? 

It is on this point that we invoke Saint Paul, for this is precisely his 
question. What does Paul want? Probably to drag the Good News (the 
Gospels) out from the rigid enclosure within which its restriction to the 
Jewish community would confine it. But equally, never to let it be deter¬ 
mined by the available generalities, be they statist [ etatiques] or ideologi¬ 
cal. Statist generality belongs to Roman legalism, and to Roman citizen¬ 
ship in particular, to its conditions and the rights associated with it. 
Although himself a Roman citizen, and proud of it, Paul will never allow 
any legal categories to identify the Christian subject. Slaves, women, peo- 

14 Paul: Our Contemporary 

pie of every profession and nationality will therefore be admitted without 
restriction or privilege. As for ideological generality, it is obviously repre¬ 
sented by the philosophical and moral discourse of the Greeks. Paul will 
establish a resolute distance to this discourse, which is for him the coun¬ 
terpoise to a conservative vision of Jewish law. Ultimately, it is a case of 
mobilizing a universal singularity both against the prevailing abstractions 
(legal then, economic now), and against communitarian or particularist 

Pauls general procedure is the following: if there has been an event, 
and if truth consists in declaring it and then in being faithful to this dec¬ 
laration, two consequences ensue. First, since truth is evental, or of the 
order of what occurs, it is singular. It is neither structural, nor axiomatic, 
nor legal. No available generality can account for it, nor structure the 
subject who claims to follow in its wake. Consequently, there cannot be 
a law of truth. Second, truth being inscribed on the basis of a declaration 
that is in essence subjective, no preconstituted subset can support it; 
nothing communitarian or historically established can lend its substance 
to the process of truth. Truth is diagonal relative to every communitarian 
subset; it neither claims authority from, nor (this is obviously the most 
delicate point) constitutes any identity. It is offered to all, or addressed to 
everyone, without a condition of belonging being able to limit this offer, 
or this address. 

Once the texts transmitted to us are all seen as local interventions, 
and hence governed by localized tactical stakes, Pauls problematic, how¬ 
ever sinewy its articulation, implacably follows the requirements of truth 
as universal singularity: 

1. The Christian subject does not preexist the event he declares 
(Christs resurrection). Thus, the extrinsic conditions of his exis¬ 
tence or identity will be argued against. He will be required to be 
neither Jewish (or circumcised), nor Greek (or wise). This is the 
theory of discourses (there are three: the Jewish, the Greek, the 
new). No more than he will be required to be from this or that so¬ 
cial class (theory of equality before truth), or this or that sex (the¬ 
ory of women). 

2. Truth is entirely subjective (it is of the order of a declaration that 
testifies to a conviction relative to the event). Thus, every sub¬ 

Paul: Our Contemporary 15 

sumption of its becoming under a law will be argued against. It will 
be necessary to proceed at once via a radical critique of Jewish law, 
which has become obsolete and harmful, and of Greek law as the 
subordination of destiny to the cosmic order, which has never been 
anything but a “learned” ignorance of the paths of salvation. 

3. Fidelity to the declaration is crucial, for truth is a process, and 
not an illumination. In order to think it, one requires three con¬ 
cepts: one that names the subject at the point of declaration ( pistis , 
generally translated as f faith,” but which is more appropriately ren¬ 
dered as “conviction”); one that names the subject at the point of 
his convictions militant address ( agape , generally translated as 
“charity,” but more appropriately rendered as “love”|; lastly, one 
that names the subject according to the force of displacement con¬ 
ferred upon him through the assumption of the truth procedures 
completed [acheve\ character (elpis, generally translated as “hope,” 
but more appropriately rendered as “certainty”). 

4. A truth is of itself indifferent to the state of the situation, to the 
Roman State for example. This means that it is subtracted from the 
organization of subsets prescribed by that state. The subjectivity 
corresponding to this subtraction constitutes a necessary distance 
from the State and from what corresponds to the State in peoples 
consciousness: the apparatus of opinion. One must not argue about 
opinions, Paul says. A truth is a concentrated and serious proce¬ 
dure, which must never enter into competition with established 

There is not one of these maxims which, setting aside the content 
of the event, cannot be appropriated for our situation and our philo¬ 
sophical tasks. All that remains is to deploy their underlying conceptual 
organization, while giving credit to him who, deciding that none was ex¬ 
empt from what a truth demands and disjoining the true from the Law, 
provoked—entirely alone—a cultural revolution upon which we still de¬ 

Who Is Paul? 

We could begin in the sanctimonious style of the usual biographies. 
Paul (actually Saul, the name of the first king of Israel) is born in Tarsus 

between i and 5 a.d. (impossible, from a strictly scholarly perspective, to 
be more precise). Thus, he is of the same generation as Jesus, who, as 
everyone knows—but the circularity is interesting—is born and concur¬ 
rently establishes his own date of birth by instituting year 1 of “our” era 
(“his,” rather). Pauls father is an artisan-retailer, a tent maker. He is a Ro¬ 
man citizen, and hence so is Paul. How did this father obtain citizenship? 
It is simplest to suppose, despite the absence of evidence, that he bought 

it. It would not be beyond the means of an affluent retailer to bribe a Ro¬ 

man civil servant. Paul is a Jew of the Pharisaical tendency. He is an ar¬ 
dent participant in the persecution of Christians, who are considered 
heretics by the orthodox Jews and, as a result, legally prosecuted but also 
beaten, stoned, and driven out, in accordance with the varying power- 
struggles between different factions in the Jewish communities. 

Christ s execution dates approximately from the year 30. We are in 

the reign of Tiberius. In the year 33 or 34, on the road to Damascus Paul 
is struck by a divine apparition and converts to Christianity. He begins 

his famous missionary voyages. And so on. 

What use is all this? You can consult the books. Let s cut straight to 
the doctrine. 

Who Is Paul? 17 

And yet, no, let us pause instead. Paul is a major figure of antiphi¬ 
losophy. But it is of the essence of antiphilosophy that the subjective po¬ 
sition figure as a decisive factor in discourse. Existential fragments, some¬ 
times anecdotal in appearance, are elevated to the rank of guarantor of 
truth. Can one imagine Rousseau without the Confessions , Kierkegaard 
without our being informed of the detail of his engagement to Regine, or 
Nietzsche not inviting us to pay witness, throughout Ecce Homo , to the 
reasons entitling him to ask the question “Why am I a destiny”? For an 
antiphilosopher, the enunciative position is obviously part of the state¬ 
ments protocol. No discourse can lay claim to truth if it does not contain 
an explicit answer to the question: Who speaks? 

Whenever Paul addresses his writings, he always draws attention to 
the fact that he has been entitled to speak as a subject. And he became this 
subject. He became it suddenly, on the road to Damascus (if, as we be¬ 
lieve, in this particular instance one can, for once and once only, trust 
that fabricated biography of Paul that the New Testament presents under 
the title Acts of the Apostles). The story is well known: while traveling to 
Damascus as a zealous Pharisee in order to persecute Christians, (Paul 
hears a mysterious voice revealing to him both the truth and his vocation. 

Is the term “conversion” appropriate to what happened on the road 

to Damascus? It was a thunderbolt, a caesura, and not a dialectical rever¬ 
sal. It was a conscription instituting a new subject: “By the grace of God 
I am what I am [eimi ho eimi \” (Cor.|What this absolutely alea¬ 
tory intervention on the road to Damascus summons is the “I am” as 

In a certain sense, this conversion isn’t carried out by anyone: Paul 

has not been converted by representatives of “the Church”; he has not 

been won over. He has not been presented with the gospel. Clearly, the 
encounter on the road mimics the founding event. Just as the Resurrec¬ 
tion remains totally incalculable and it is from there that one must begin, 
Pauls faith is that from which he begins as a subject, and nothing leads 

up to it. The event—“it happened,” purely and simply, in the anonymity 
of a road—is the subjective sign of the event proper that is the Resurrec¬ 
tion of Christ. Within Paul himself, it is the (re)surgence [(ri)surrection\ 
of the subject. This is the exemplary matrix of the link between existence 
and doctrine, for Paul draws from the conditions of his “conversion” the 

18 Who Is Paul? 

consequence that one can only begin from faith, from the declaration of 
faith. The sudden appearance of the Christian subject is unconditioned. 

Accordingly, if we are to grasp his message, we can in no way neg¬ 
lect the circumstances of Pauls life. !In this regard, it is fortunate that 
those circumstances to which we accord the highest importance are the 
ones he himself incorporates into his epistles. For reliable independent 
evidence is extremely rare. The narrative of the Acts of the Apostles is, as 
we have already mentioned, a retrospective construction whose inten¬ 

tions modern criticism has clearly brought to light, and whose form is 
frequently borrowed from the rhetoric of Greek fables. To distinguish its 
real elements from the edifying (and politically charged) fable in which 
they are enveloped requires an exceptional and suspicious rigor. And we 
have practically nothing else to go on, unless it be the ability to verify 
such and such a detail through the intermediary of Roman historiogra¬ 
phy, which couldn’t have cared less about these little groups of Jewish 
heretics. Moreover, one must be suspicious even of “Pauls epistles,” 
canonically gathered together in the New Testament at least a century af¬ 

ter the apostles death. Scholarly exegesis has demonstrated the apoc- 
ryphal nature of many of them, to the extent that the corpus of this fun¬ 

damental author must, in the final analysis, be reduced to six rather brief 
texts: Romans, Corinthians I and II, Galatians, Philippians, and Thessa- 

lonians I. This is nonetheless enough to establish certain major subjective 
traits and guarantee certain decisive episodes. 

Thus, for example, a point of the highest importance, which Paul 
relates to us with noticeable pride (Paul is certainly neither introverted, 

nor falsely modest): What does he do after the Damascus experience? We 

know in any case what he does not do. He does not go to Jerusalem; he 
does not go to see the authorities, the institutional apostles, those who 

knew Christ. He does not seek “confirmation” for the event that appoints 

him in his own eyes as an apostle. He leaves this subjective upsurge out¬ 
side every official seal. The unshakable conviction as to his own destiny 
probably dates from here, a conviction that will on several occasions 
cause him to come into conflict with the core of historical apostles, 
among whom Peter is the central figure. Turning away from all authority 
other than that of the Voice that personally summoned him to his be¬ 
coming-subject, Paul leaves for Arabia in order to proclaim the gospel, to 

Who Is Paul? 19 

declare that what took place did take place. A man who, armed with a 
personal event, has grounds for declaring that impersonal event that is 
the Resurrection. 

Paul stays in Arabia for three years. Doubtless, in his own eyes, his 
militant efficacy provides a sufficient guarantee, so that having endured 
this delay he is finally entitled to meet the Church’s “historic leaders.” We 
shall see later that although stubborn, even violent, where matters of 
principle are concerned, Paul is also a politick^, one who knows the 
value of reasonable compromise, and particularly of verbal compromises, 
which only slightly impede his freedom of action in the places and terri¬ 
tories he chooses (preferably those where his opponent has the least foot- 
in g). Thus, Paul goes to Jerusalem, where he meets Peter and the apostles, 

then leaves again. We know nothing of the issues debated in this first 
meeting. It seems it did not convince Paul of the necessity of frequently 
consulting with the Jerusalemite “center,” because his second period of 
militant voyage will last fourteen years! Cilicia, Syria, Turkey, Macedonia, 
Greece. The ex-centered dimension of Paul’s action is the practical sub¬ 
structure of his thought, which posits that all true universality is devoid 
of a center. 

We know roughly how these militant peregrinations functioned. At 
that time Judaism was still a proselytizing religion. To address oneself to 
Gentiles was not, as is often thought, an invention of Pauls) Jewish pros- 
elytism was substantial and developed. It divided its audience into two 
circles that could be called, using a risky political anachronism, the sym¬ 
pathizers and the adherents: 

(a) The “God-fearing” recognize monotheisms global legitimacy 
but are exempt from the prescriptions of the law, and notably from 

(b) The converted are committed to following the prescriptions of 
the law, and must be circumcised. Circumcision here indexes its 
function as a form of branding, of primary initiation. 

Thus, it is not primarily the fact that he addresses Gentiles that iso¬ 
lates Paul from the Jewish community. Moreover, Paul begins his teach¬ 
ing by basing himself on that community’s institutions. When he arrives 
in a town, he first intervenes in the synagogue. Unsurprisingly, things go 

20 Who Is Paul? 

badly with the orthodox, for reasons of doctrine: the stubborn persistence 
in affirming that Jesus is the Messiah (remember that “Christ” is simply 
the Greek word for “messiah,” so that the only continuity between the 

Good News according to Paul and prophetic Judaism is the equation Je¬ 
sus = Christ), an affirmation that, in the eyes of the majority of Jews, and 
for extremely powerful and legitimate reasons, propounds a fraud. Fol¬ 
lowing incidents that, in the conditions of the time, could be extremely 
violent, and where, basically, one risks ones life, Paul abandons the syna¬ 
gogue and withdraws to the home of a local sympathizer. There he tries 
to set up a group comprising Judeo-Christians and Gentile-Christians. It 
seems that very quickly the Gentile-Christians will constitute the major¬ 
ity among the adherents of the group. In light of the minimal concession 
Paul makes to the Jewish heritage, particularly so far as rites are con¬ 
cerned, this is not in the least surprising. Once the group has been suffi¬ 
ciently consolidated in his eyes (it will then be called an ekklesia , from 
which eglise [church] undoubtedly derives, although the former should be 
envisioned in terms of a small group of militants), Paul entrusts its run¬ 
ning to those whose conviction he holds in high regard, and who will be¬ 
come his lieutenants. Then he continues on his voyage. 

Nothing bears witness to Paul’s certainty concerning the future of 

his action so much as the identification, toward which he is constantly 
proceeding, between a small core of the constituted faithful in a town and 
the entire region. Who are these Thessalonians, these Corinthians, to say 
nothing of these Romans, to whom Paul addresses, in an animated and 
majestic tone, his epistles? Probably a few “brothers”—-which is an ar¬ 
chaic form of our “comrades”—lost in the city. Through their commen- 
surability with a truth, anonymous individuals are always transformed 
into vectors of humanity as a whole. Let’s just say that the handful of Re¬ 

sistance fighters in the year 1940 or 1941 occupy the same position as 
Paul’s Corinthians: it is to them, and to them alone, that it is legitimate 

to address oneself if seeking to indicate a real proper to France. 

However far away, Paul never loses sight of these enclaves of the 
faithful whose existence he has played midwife to. His epistles are noth¬ 
ing but interventions in the lives of these enclaves, and these are possessed 
of all the political passion proper to such interventions. Struggles against 
internecine divisions, reminders of fundamental principles, reassertions 

Who Is Paul? 21 

of trust in local organizers, examinations of litigious points, pressing de¬ 
mands for continuing proselytizing activity, organization of finances . . . 
Nothing that an activist for any organized cause would not recognize as 
fundamental to the concerns and passions of collective intervention. 

After fourteen years of organizational wandering, of which no writ¬ 

ten trace remains, we are roughly in the year 50. About twenty years have 
passed since the death of Christ. It has been seventeen years since Paul re¬ 
ceived the Damascus convocation. He is in his fifties and refers to him¬ 
self as “the old Paul.” His earliest texts that have been handed down to us 
date from this period. Why? A few hypotheses can be proposed. 

Since he is responsible for several groups largely comprised of Gen¬ 
tile-Christians, Paul resides in Antioch, a very large city, the third city of 
the empire after Rome and Alexandria. Recall that Paul was born into a 
well-off fam ily in Tarsus, that he is a man of the city rather than a man of 
the country. This is more than a detail. His style owes nothing to those 
rural images and metaphors that, on the contrary, abound in the parables 
of Christ. If his vision of things fervently embraces the dimension of the 
world and extends to the extreme limits of the empire (his dearest wish is 
to go to Spain, as if he, the Oriental, could only accomplish his mission 
at the extreme edge of the Occident), it is because urban cosmopoli¬ 
tanism and lengthy voyages have shaped its amplitude. Paul’s universal- 
ism also comprises an in ternal geography, which is not that of the peren¬ 
nial little landowner. 

If Paul begins to write about points of doctrine, if his texts are 
copied and circulated, we believe it is because he becomes aware of the 
necessity of engaging in a large-scale struggle. The situation forces him to 
conceive of himself as leader of a party or faction. 

During Paul’s stay in Antioch, some Judeo-Christians of strict ob¬ 
servance arrive. They confront the apostle, sow discord, demand the cir¬ 
cumcision of all the faithful. Once again, it is not proselytism toward 
non-Jews that is in question. The point is that Paul cannot consent to the 
distinction between two circles among those whom he has rallied, the 
doctrinal sympathizers and the “true” converts, initiated and circumcised. 
For him (and we shall grant him this point), a truth procedure does not 

comprise degrees. Either one participates in it, declaring the founding 
event and drawing its consequences, or one remains foreign to it. This 

22 Who Is Paul ? 

distinction, without intermediary or mediation, is entirely subjective. 
Rites and external markings can provide neither a foundation, nor even a 
qualification for it. Such is the price for truths status as a universal sin¬ 
gularity. A truth procedure is only universal insofar as it is supported, at 
that point through which it indexes the real, by an immediate subjective 
recognition of its singularity. Failing which, one resorts to observances or 
particular signs, which can only^zx the Good News within the commu¬ 
nitarian space, blocking its universal deployment. Thus, Paul considers all 
converts as fully practicing followers, whatever their background, and re¬ 
gardless of whether they are circumcised. Judeo-Christians of strict ob¬ 
servance maintain the practice of distinguishing between degrees of be¬ 
longing and find it genuinely scandalous that individuals possessing 
neither the markings nor the ritual practices of the community can be 
considered as equals. People who, in a word, have neither the slightest 
knowledge of, nor respect for, the Law. 

A grave dispute ensues. It is finally decided that the issue be settled 

with the historical apostles in Jerusalem. It is Pauls second encounter 

with Peter, and this time we have information about what was at stake. It 
concerns a major conflict, one in which the destiny of the new doctrine 

is at issue. To what extent does the latter remain dependent on its origin 
in the Jewish community? In my own language: What is the exact rela¬ 
tion between the supposed universality of the postevental truth (that is, 
what is inferred from Christs resurrection) and the evental site, which is, 
indubitably, the nation bound together by the Old Testament? Of what 
import are the traditional marks of belonging to the Jewish community 
for the construction of this truth, for its deployment in the peoples of the 

The Jerusalem conference (in 50? in 51?) is of decisive importance 

for these q uestions, which coordinate the binding of singularity and uni¬ 
versality. Specifically at stake in it is circumcision, and Paul deliberately 
comes to Jerusalem accompanied by Titus, an uncircumcised follower. 

But in the background the question is: Who is called? What is it to be 

called? Is the call indexed by visible signs? And finally: Who is a subject? 

What marks a subject? 

The Judeo-Christian faction, which maintains strict observance, as¬ 
serts that the Christ-event does not abolish the old order. Its conception 

Who Is Paul ? 23 

of the subject is dialectical. It is not a question of denying the power of 
the event. It is a question of asserting that its novelty conserves and sub- 
lates the traditional site of faith, that it incorporates it by exceeding it. 

The Christ-event accomplishes the Law; it does not terminate it. Thus 

the marks inherited from tradition (circumcision, for example) are still 

necessary. One might even say that, taken up and elevated by the new an¬ 
nouncement, the latter become transfigured and are all the more active 
for it. 

Paul finds himself leading the second faction. In his eyes, the event 

renders prior markings obsolete, and the new universality bears no privi¬ 

leged relation to the Jewish community! Certainly, the components of the 
event, its location, everything it mobilizes, have this community as their 
site. Paul himself is entirely of Jewish culture and cites the Old Testament 
far more frequently than the putative words of the living Christ. But al¬ 
though the event depends on its site in its being > it must be independent 
of it in its truth effects S'T\ms, it is not that communitarian marking (cir¬ 
cumcision, rites, the meticulous observance of the Law) is indefensible or 
erroneous. It is that the postevental imperative of truth renders the latter 
tfindifferent (which is worse). It has no signification, whether positive or 
negative. Paul is not opposed to circumcision. His rigorous assertion is 

“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing” (Cor. I.7.19). 

This assertion is obviously sacrilegious for Judeo-Christians. But note 
that it is not, for all that, a Gentile-Christian assertion, since uncircum¬ 
cision acquires no particular value through it, so that it is in no way to be 
insisted upon. 

The debate, philosophically reconstructed, bears upon three con¬ 

cepts: interruption (what does an event interrupt, what does it preserve?); 
fidelity (what is it to be faithful to an evental interruption?); and marking 

(are there visible marks or signs of fidelity?). The fundamental interroga¬ 
tion is crystallized at the intersection of these three concepts: Who is the 
subject of the truth procedure? 

We know of the Jerusalem conference’s existence and stakes only 
through Paul’s own brief narrative, and through its staging in the Acts. 
That it ended in compromise, in a sort of delimitation of spheres of in¬ 
fluence, is certain. The formula for that compromise is: there are apostles 
working in the Jewish environment, and others working in the Gentile 

24 Who Is Paul ? 

environment. Peter is apostle of the Jews; Paul, apostle of the GentilfJ, 
^^\thne (translated as “nations,” and in fact designating all peoples other 
than the Jewish people). 

Paul relates the episode in his epistle to the Galatians, 2.1.10: 

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Ti¬ 
tus along with me. I went up by revelation; and laid before them (but privately, 
before those who were of reputation) the gospel that I preach among the Gen¬ 
tiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain. But even Titus, who 
was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But 
because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our free¬ 
dom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage—to 
them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the 
gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who were most esteemed 
(what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I 
say, who were of repute added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they 
saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcised, just as Peter 
had been entrusted the gospel of the circumcised (for he who worked through 
Peter for the mission to the circumcised, worked through me also for the Gen¬ 
tiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and 
Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the 
right hands of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the cir¬ 
cumcised, only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was 
eager to do. 

This is an entirely political text, from which we must retain at least 
three points: 

1. Whatever the ponderous character of this discourse, we deduce 
that the struggle was a fierce one. The Judeo-Christians of strict ob¬ 
servance (probably those who were behind the disturbances at An¬ 
tioch) are denounced as “false brethren,” and it is clearly a question 
of knowing whether one is going to give in to pressure. There was 
an intercession by the historical apostles, Peter (Cephas), James, 
and John, who, carrying out their symbolic governing role in a 
spirit of rational compromise, approved some kind of empirical du¬ 
ality in the militant function. Nevertheless, we notice that nothing 
in this conclusion provides a clear indication as to which side has 
been taken on the fundamental issues. That Paul concern himself 

Who Is Paul ? 25 

with the Gentiles is one thing that he impose on them neither rites 
nor marks is another, one which the conference apparently does not 

2. The key moment in the text is the one in which Paul declares 
that his opponents spied out the “freedom which we have in Christ 
Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.” For freedom puts 
into play the question of the law, a question that will be central in 
Pauls discourse. What, in the final analysis, is the relation between 
law and subject? Is every subject configured in the form of a legal 
subjection? The Jerusalem conference resolves nothing, but lets 
conflicting experiences develop. 

3. Everything, including Pauls defensive tone (he is visibly plead¬ 
ing for the recognized right to pursue his action), shows that the 
compromise was unstable, which is not to say it was without his- 
torical influence. On the contrary, that influence is considerable. By 

allowing Pauls action to develop at the same time as that of Judeo- 
Christians of strict observance, the Jerusalem conference ultimately 
prevents Christianity from becoming a Jewish sect, another precar¬ 
ious scission (in the wake of many others). But in curbing the zeal 
of those Gentile-Christians hostile to Judaism, and perhaps that of 
Paul himself, it prevented Christianity from being merely a new il¬ 
ium in ism, one just as precarious because devoid of all basis in his¬ 
torical Judaism. The Jerusalem conference is genuinely founda¬ 
tional, because it endows Christianity with a twofold principle of 
opening and historicity. It thereby holds tight to the thread of the 
event as initiation of a truth procedure. That the event is new 
should never let us forget that it is such only with respect to a de¬ 
terminate situation, wherein it mobilizes the elements of its site. 
Admittedly, the conference does not seem able to fix the content of 
this difficult match between eventality and immanence to a situa¬ 
tion. But that it manages to coordinate the possibility of this match 
empirically is already a lot. If it is true that Peter [Pierre] was the ar¬ 
chitect of the Jerusalem compromise, he deserves his title of cor¬ 
nerstone [pierre angulaire\ of the Church. 

That the situation remained tense even after the conference is at¬ 
tested to by the famous “incident at Antioch,” which Paul mentions just 
after his narrative of the conference and which seems to have occurred at 

26 Who Is Paul ,? 

the end of the same year. This incident is passed over in silence in the 
Acts, which supports the view that the latter is an official document, 
whose function is to provide an account of the first decades of Christian¬ 
ity that would be as uniform, organizational, and “Roman” as possible. 

What was this incident about? Peter is in Antioch (a tour of inspec¬ 

tion?), where Paul has returned. The issue concerns whether one can 
share ritual meals with non-Jews. Peter begins by doing so, but seeing dis¬ 
ciples of James entering, leaves the table. Paul takes it very badly. There is 
no doubt that he sees in Peters behavior a betrayal of the initial compro¬ 
mise and a hypocritical position. The text still bears the imprint of gen¬ 
uine fury: 

But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him face to face, because he stood 
condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; 
but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumci¬ 
sion party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Bar¬ 
nabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not 
straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If 
you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you compel 
the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2.11.14) 

Paul will immediately break with Barnabas, who has been led astray by 
Peter. Everything indicates that he refused any compromise when it came 
to fidelity to principles. 

The apparent enigma is the following: Why does Paul say to Peter 
that he (Peter), who is a Jew, lives in the manner of Gentiles? The answer 
supposes an implicit reference to the Jerusalem agreements. With respect 
to these agreements, what Peter did is tantamount to duplicity. It shows 
a hypocritical disrespect for a convention. For someone who claims to 
follow the Law, it amounts to a grave failing. One might say that Paul re¬ 
proaches Peter with acting in a manner that fails to correspond to the im¬ 
age Peter himself claims to give of what it is to be a Jew. He thereby de¬ 
prives himself of the right to force the Gentiles to conform to this image 
and to practice foreign rites. 

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the incident at 
Antioch. That Peter could display such inconsistency with regard to his 
own principles, such disloyalty to a past compromise, instills in Paul the 

Who Is Paul ? 27 

idea that what is required are new principles. The incident reveals to him 
that the Law, in its previous imperative, is not, is no longer, tenable, even 
for those who claim to follow it. This will nourish one of Pauls essential 
theses, which is that the Law has become a figure of death: Peter’s situa¬ 
tion, at the very heart of the meager Christian “apparatus,” a precarious, 
hypocritical, “reprehensible,” and basically moribund situation so far as 
the requirements of action are concerned, furnished him with concrete 
proof of this. For Paul, it is no longer possible to maintain an equal bal¬ 
ance between the Law, which is a principle of death for the suddenly as¬ 
cendant truth, and the evental declaration, which is its principle of life. 

Now the leader of a faction, and having learned from these major, 
“summit” confrontations, Paul sets off on his travels once again (Mace¬ 
donia, Greece). The Acts presents us with the Hollywood version of these 
travels. One episode, as famous as it is unlikely, is that of the great speech 
Paul is said to have given before the Athenian philosophers (Stoics and 
Epicureans) “in the midst of the Areopagus.” Perhaps we may retain, at 
least in its spirit, the episodes sorry conclusion: hearing Paul speak of the 
resurrection of the dead, the Greek philosophers burst out laughing and 
leave. It is in fact likely that Pauls discourse met with little success in 
Athens. The evidence is that Paul founded no group there. We find our¬ 
selves here on the second of Paul’s major fronts (the first being the con¬ 
flict with the Judeo-Christians): the contempt in which he holds philo¬ 
sophical wisdom. Basically, what gets him into difficulty in Athens is his 
antiphilosophy. In Corinthians I, we find a clear, albeit indirect, appraisal 
of these expeditions into philosophical territory by an antiphilosopher: 

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony 
of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you ex¬ 
cept Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in 
much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in persuasive 
words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith 
might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (Cor. 1 .2.1-5) 

The problem, lies in knowing how, armed only with the conviction 
that declares the Christ-event, one is to tackle the Greek intellectual mi¬ 
lieu, whose essential category is that of wisdom ( sophrn ), and whose in¬ 
strument is that of rhetorical superiority (huperokhe logou ). 

28 Who Is Paul? 

Speaking of logos, we should note that Paul writes in Greek, the 

Greek commonly spoken in the Orient of those days, which is a sort of 
international language (a bit like English today). It is in no way a con¬ 

trived or esoteric language, but the Greek of traders and writers. We must 
restore to Pauls words, whose translations have become worn by cen¬ 
turies of obscurantism (all this “faith”! “charity”! “Holy Spirit”! What an 
extravagant waste of energjj), their contemporary, everyday currency; for¬ 
bid ourselves from seeing them as a Church dialect. When Paul speaks of 
the subtleties of Greek, one must remember not only that the language of 
the literate, of the philosophers, is frozen, almost dead already, but also 
that the debate cannot be carried on from outside, according to the labo¬ 
rious transit between idioms. Conflict occurs within the same living lan¬ 

Paul opposes a show of spirit ( pneuma ,, breath) and power 
(dunamis) to the armed wisdom of rhetoric. The wisdom of men is op¬ 
posed to the power of God. It is thus a question of intervening ouk en 
sophiai logon , “without the wisdom of language.” This maxim envelops a 
radical antiphilosophy; it is not a proposition capable of being supported 
by a philosophic The essence of all this is that a subjective upsurge can¬ 
not be given as the rhetorical construction of a personal adjustment to 
the laws of the universe or nature. 

Pauls appraisal seems sincere. There was a failure before the 

“Greeks.” The Jews raise the question of the Law; the Greeks, that of 

Wisdom, of philosophy.. Such are the two historical referents for Pauls 
enterprise. One must find the path for a thought that avoids both these 
referents. In public circumstances, this attempt at a diagonal trajectory 
rarely meets with success, rallying only a few anonymous companions. So 
begins every truth. 

We are now under Nero’s reign, and Paul’s wish—we mentioned it 
earlier—is to go to Spain, which at the time represents the edge of the 
world. At the moment of departure, a new militant question arises, that 
of the collection. 

In all the groups affiliated with the Christian declaration, funds 
destined for the Jerusalem community are collected. What does this con¬ 
tribution signify? Here, we encounter once again the conflict between 
tendencies refereed by the Jerusalem conference’s feeble compromise. 

Who Is Paul? 29 

The Judeo-Christians see in this paying of tribute an acknowledg¬ 
ment of the primacy of the historical apostles (Peter and the others), as 
well as the sign that elects Jerusalem—obvious center, along with the 
Temple, of the Jewish community—as natural center of the Christian 
movement. The collection thereby affirms a continuity between Jewish 
communitarianism and Christian expansionism. Lastly, through the col¬ 
lection, external groups recognize that they amount to a diaspora. 

Paul gives an interpretation of the collection that is the exact oppo¬ 
site. By accepting their donations, the center ratifies the legitimacy of the 
Gentile-Christian groups. It demonstrates that neither membership of 
the Jewish community, nor the marks of that membership, nor being sit¬ 
uated on the land of Israel are pertinent criteria for deciding whether a 
constituted group does or does not belong within the Christian sphere of 

Because he wishes to keep a watch on the collection’s future devel¬ 

opment, as well as the meaning ascribed to it, Paul decides to accompany 
the funds to Jerusalem rather than go to Spain. 

What happens next can only be conjectured. The most plausible ac¬ 
count is the following. In Jerusalem, Paul is, in a sense, in the lion’s den. 
He is required to conform to certain Jewish rites. Paul accepts, because, 

as he has written, he knows how to be “a Jew among Jews,” just as he 
knows how to be a Greek among Greeks: subjective truth is indifferent to 

customs. He goes to the Temple. Subsequently, he becomes the target of 
an angry mob, because he has been accused of having smuggled a Gentile 
into the Temple. In the eyes of the Jewish religious administration, sec¬ 
onded on this point by the Roman occupier, who is in the habit of main¬ 
taining local customs, such an action is worthy of the death penalty. 

Did Paul really commit the crime of which he is accused? The ma¬ 

jority of historians think not. The truth is, no one knows. Paul is an ac¬ 
tivist, and nothing rules out the possibility that he believed such a provo¬ 
cation to be both possible and useful] In any case, he is arrested by a 
detachment of Roman soldiers at the moment when he is about to be 
lynched. It is the Romans who will initiate proceedings against him. Paul 
is taken to the garrison at Caesarea. Around 59, he appears before the 
governor, Festus (this much is certain). Since the accusation can lead to 
the death penalty, he claims his rights as a Roman citizen: a citizen 

30 Who Is Paul? 

charged with a capital offense has the right to be judged in Rome. Thus, 
he is transferred there, and it seems he remained prisoner there from 60 

to 62. A brief allusion by Clement, around 90, leads one to think he was 
finally executed — whether following a formal trial, or during a persecu¬ 
tion, no one can know. 

None of Pauls texts refer to these episodes, and for good reason: all 

the authentic texts that have been handed down to us were certainly writ¬ 
ten prior to his arrest, which is to say that, so far as the final years of Pauls 
life are concerned, we remain, in reality, utterly ignorant. The voyage to 
Rome is recounted with a great wealth of detail in the Acts, following the 
familiar conventions of the seafaring adventure yarn. It is impossible to 
distinguish between the true and the false. The Acts ends strangely, not, 
as one might expect, with Pauls martyrdom, but with the edifying spec¬ 
tacle of an apostle continuing his proselytizing activity in Rome in per¬ 
fect tranquility, which, along with many other details, testifies to the pro- 
Roman benevolence harbored by the author of the Acts. 

Yet after all, Paul himself teaches us that it is not the signs of power 

that count, nor exemplary lives, but what a conviction is capable of, here, 
now, and forever. 

Texts and Contexts 

Pauls texts are letters, written by a leader to the groups he has 
started or backed. They cover a very brief period (from 50 to 58). They are 
militant documents sent to small groups of the converted. In no way are 
they narratives, in the manner of the Gospels, or theoretical treatises, of 
the kind later written by the Church Fathers, or lyrical prophecies, such 
as the Apocalypse attributed to John. They are interventions. From this 
point of view, they are more akin to the texts of Lenin than to Marx’s 

Capital or to the majority of texts by Lacan than to Freuds Interpretation 
of Dreams, or to Wittgenstein’s lectures than to Russell’s Principia Math - 
ematica. This format, in which the opportunity for action takes precedent 
over the preoccupation with making a name for oneself through publica¬ 
tions (“poubellications,”*|as Lacan used to say), evinces one of the an¬ 
tiphilosopher’s characteristic traits: he writes neither system nor treatise, 
nor even really a book. Fie propounds a speech of rupture, and writing 
ensues when necessary. 

The enigma lies mainly in knowing how these topical texts were be¬ 
queathed to us, and what was responsible for their solemn and suspicious 
inclusion within that untouchable corpus known as the New Testament. 

The canonical collection of “Paul’s epistles” is late. It probably dates 

* Portmanteau word combining poubelles , “trash cans,” and publications , 

32 Texts and Contexts 

from the end of the second century. The oldest copies we possess come 
from the beginning of the third century and consist only of fragments. 
Moreover, as we indicated earlier, out of the thirteen letters contained in 
the New Testament at least six are certainly apocryphal, even if it seems 
probable that some of these originated from within Pauls “entourage.” 

Why and how did this corpus come to be canonized? Remember 
that Paul has no obvious historical legitimacy. He is not one of the twelve 

apostles. He knew nothing of the Lords life. He caused many problems 

for the historical center in Jerusalem. 

Four important remarks may illuminate this oddity. 

1. Contrary to the persistent illusion harbored by the New Testa¬ 
ments canonical, multisecular order, and imposed on our spontaneous 
opinion, we will never tire of repeating that PauTs epistles predate , by a 
long way ; the composition of the Gospels. Better still: Pauls epistles are, 
quite simply, the oldest Christian texts to be handed down to us. Of course, 
oral accounts of Christs life, of his miracles, of his death, must have been 
abundantly propagated at the time of Pauls preaching. But no document 
establishing the details of that history has come down to us written prior 
to the year 70, which is to say, about ten years after Pauls death. If one 
dates the first epistle to the Thessalonians from 50, which is plausible, a 

twenty-year gap separates it from the writing of the first gosp el (Marks). 

Consequently, Paul enjoys a palpable anteriority so far as the written 
propagation of the Christian doctrine is concerned. And because his let¬ 
ters were copied and circulated very early on, it would probably have 
been difficult to simply ignore them when the time came (much later, at 
the end of the third century) to collect the new religions founding docu¬ 

2. With the partial exception of Johns (which was written last, pos¬ 
sibly around 90), the Gospels provide a genuine contrast to Pauls epis¬ 
tles, one to which we shall have occasion to return. Their aim is obviously 
to emphasize Jesus' exploits , his life’s exceptional singularity. All the 

trusted staples of religious thaumaturgy and charlatanism are abundantly 
mobilized: miraculous cures, walking on water, divinations and an¬ 
nouncements, resuscitation of the dead, abnormal meteorological phe¬ 
nomena, laying on of hands, instantaneous multiplication of victuals . . . 
Jesus’ style, as recounted to us by the Gospels, is in complete accordance 

Texts and Contexts 33 

with this itinerant magician’s paraphernalia. Certainly, the choiceness of 
its aphorisms, and its shaping of the will to rupture, render it brilliant. 
Yet for all that, it is no less marked by the conventions of the genre: para¬ 
bles with a double meaning, obscure metaphors, apocalyptic imagery, 
carefully constructed undecidability as to the character’s identity 
(Prophet? Messiah? Messenger of God? Son of God? New God descended 
on earth?). 

Paul’s texts retain almost nothing of all this, in spite of the fact that 

it must have been recounted in abundant detail among Christians of the 

first generation. It has often been noted that the empirical life of Jesus 

practically goes unmentioned in the epistles, as do all of the master’s fa¬ 

mous parables. Jesus’ teachings, like his miracles, are splendidly ignored. 
Everything is brought back to a single point: Jesus, son of God (we shall 

see what this means), and Christ in virtue of this, died on the cross and 
was resurrected. The rest, all the rest, is of no real importance. Let us go 

further: the rest (what Jesus said and did) is not what is real in conviction , 
but obstructs , or even falsifies it. Only a concentrated style, shorn of the 
mannerisms of prophetic and thaumaturgical literature, can be appropri¬ 
ate to such a reduction. There is no doubt that Paul is a superlative 
writer: condensed, lapidary, knowing just when to unleash unusual and 
powerful images. Certain passages, as the poet Henry Bachau pointed out 
to us, combining a kind of violent abstraction with ruptures in tone de¬ 
signed to put pressure on the reader, to deprive him of all respite, resem¬ 
ble Shakespearean declamations. But ultimately, what matters so far as 
this prose is concerned is argumentation and delimitation, the forceful 
extraction of an essential core of though t. Consequently, there will be no 
parables, no learned obscurities, no subjective indecision, no veiling of 
truth. The paradox of faith must be brought out as it is, borne by prose 
into the light of its radical novelty. 

The result of all this is that Paul’s epistles are the only truly doctri¬ 
nal texts in the New Testament. One understands why, for example, 
Luther considered that Paul’s epistles, and they alone, contained the 
meaning of the Revelation, and he did not hide his low opinion of the 
synoptic Gospels, especially Luke’s. 

Without Paul’s texts, the Christian message would remain ambigu¬ 
ous, with little to distinguish it from the overabundant prophetic and 

34 Texts and Contexts 

apocalyptic literature of the time. This is an important reason for their in¬ 
clusion within the canonical corpus. 

3. What happened between the writing of Paul’s texts and that of 
the Gospels? A crucial event: the Jewish uprising against the Roman oc¬ 

cupier, erupting in 66 (very probably after Paul’s death), and culminating 
with Titus’s destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70. This marks the 
true beginning of Jewish diaspora. Above all, it marks the end of 
Jerusalem’s “central” significance for the Christian movement. Hence¬ 
forth begins the process that will, little by little, turn Rome into the true 
capital of Christianity and historically erase that Jewish and Oriental ori¬ 
gin of which Jerusalem, where the historic apostles resided, was the sym¬ 
bol. _ 

Now, in several regards, it is Paul who, by virtue of his universal and 

de-centered vision of the construction of Christian enclaves, can be con¬ 
sidered the genuine precursor for this displacement. There is no doubt 
that, for him, the structure of the Roman Empire, which means the 
world between the Orient and Spain, is more important than the preem¬ 
inence of Jerusalem. That the most developed, most carefully crafted, 
most decisive of all his texts, especially so far as the break with Jewish law 
is concerned, was an epistle to the Romans, is an instance of the kind of 
fortuitousness whose symbolic function is irrecusable. Another major rea¬ 
son for inscribing Paul within the official corpus. 

4. It is common knowledge that an organization puts together the 
compendium of its canonical texts when the time has come for it to se¬ 

cure its orientation against dangerous deviations, or struggle against 
threatening divisions. In this regard, the first centuries of Christianity are 
particularly fraught. So far as the question preoccupying us here is con¬ 
cerned, it is essential to take into account the upsurge of a heresy that one 
could call ultra-Pauline, that of MarcioJ, at the beginning of the second 

Marcion, providing the cue for the long succession of heresies of 
Manichean tendency, maintains that the break between Christianity and 
Judaism, between (what we call) the Old Testament and the New Testa¬ 
ment, must be considered to be absolute in a precise sense: it is not the 
same God who is in question in these two religions. The Old Testament 
deals with the God who created the world, and that God, as a considera¬ 

Texts and Contexts 35 

tion of the world as it is clearly establishes, is a malevolent being. Above 
this creator God, there exists a genuinely good God whose character is 
that of a Father and not a creator.! We can say that, for Marcion, it is nec¬ 
essary to distinguish the symbolic Father (revealed through Christianity 
alone) from the creator, or real, father. The God of Christianity (the sym¬ 
bolic Father) is not known in the same sense as the God of the Old Tes¬ 
tament (the progenitor). The latter is directly apprehensible through the 
narrative of his dark and capricious misdeeds. The former, which the 
world provides no trace of, and who for that reason cannot be known di¬ 
rectly, or known according to the style of narrative, is accessible only 
through the coming of his Son. The result is that the Christian News is, 
purely and simply, the true God’s mediating revelation, the event of the 
Father, which, at the same time, denounces the deception of that creator 
God whom the Old Testament tells us about. 

Marcion’s treatise, which has not been handed down to us, was 
called The Anti-theses. A crucial point: in it he maintained that Paul was 
the only authentic apostle; the other so-called apostles, with Peter at their 
head, remained under the auspice of the dark creator God. There were 
certainly good reasons why the heretic could enlist the “apostle of na¬ 
tions” in this way: chief among them Paul’s struggle against the strictly 
observant Judeo-Christians, his evental conception of Christianity, and 
his polemic about the deathly aspect of the law. By pushing a little, one 
could arrive atfMarcion’s conception: the new gospel is an absolute be- 

Nevertheless, there is no question but that this was an instance of 
manipulation. There is no text of Paul’s from which one could draw any¬ 

thing resembling Marcion’s doctrine. That the God whose son is Jesus 
Christ is the God spoken of in the Old Testament, the God of the Jews, 
is, for Paul, a ceaselessly reiterated and obvious fact. If there is a figure 
with whom Paul feels an affinity, and one whom he subtly uses to his 
own ends, it is that of Abraham. That Paul emphasizes rupture rather 
than continuity with Judaism is not in doubt. But this is a militant, and 

not an ontological, thesis. Divine unicity [ unicite] bridges the two situa¬ 
tions separated by the Christ-event, and at no moment is it cast into 

In order to combat Marcion’s dangerous heresy (which, in fact, 

3 6 Texts and Contexts 

abruptly backtracked on the Jerusalem compromise and threatened to 
turn Christianity into a sect devoid of all historical depth) the Church Fa¬ 
thers must have set out a reasonable and “centrist” version of Paul in op¬ 
position to ultra-Paulinism. The construction of the official Paul proba¬ 
bly dates from here, a construction that is not devoid of various 
doctorings and deviations. The truth is that we know Marcion only 
through his orthodox opponents, either Irenaeus or Jerome. And corre¬ 
spondingly, Paul came to be known through this image of Paul that it was 
necessary to construct in opposition to those who, in accordance with an 

extremist vision of the Christian rupture, appropriated the founders 
most radical statements. Herein lies a partial explanation for the inclu¬ 
sion of Pauls epistles within the final corpus: better for the Church, 
which was in the process of consolidating itself, to have a reasonable Paul 

on its side, than to have a Paul entirely turned over to the side of heresy. 

Nevertheless, this does not exclude the possibility that, on behalf of the 
cause, and by doctoring the genuine texts and fabricating false ones, the 
apostle came to be more or less “rectified,” or his radicalism tempered, at 
the very least. An operation in which, as we saw earlier, the author of the 
Acts was already engaged at the end of the first century. 

But in spite of everything, when one reads Paul, one is stupefied by 
the paucity of traces left in his prose by the era, genres, and circum¬ 
stances. There is in this prose, under the imperative of the event, some¬ 
thing solid and timeless, something that, precisely because it is a question 
of orienting a thought toward the universal in its suddenly emerging sin¬ 
gularity, but independently of all anecdote, is intelligible to us without 
having to resort to cumbersome historical mediations (which is far from 
being the case for many passages in the Gospels, let alone for the opaque 

No one has better illuminated the uninterrupted contemporane¬ 
ousness of Pauls prose than one of the greatest poets of our time, Pier 
Paolo Pasolini, who, it must be said, with his two first names was at the 
heart of the problem, through the signifier alone. 

Pasolini, for whom the question of Christianity intersected with 
that of communism, or alternatively, the question of saintliness inter¬ 
sected with that of the militant, wanted to make a film about Saint Paul 
transplanted into the contemporary world. The film was never made, but 

Texts and Contexts 37 

we possess a detailed script for it, one that was translated into French and 
published by Flammarion. 

Pasolinis aim was to turn Paul into a contemporary without modi¬ 

fying any of his statements. He wanted to restore, in the most direct, 
most violent way, the conviction of Pauls intrinsic actuality. It was a 

question of explicitly telling the spectator that it was possible to imagine 
Paul among us, here, today, in his full physical existence. That it is our so¬ 
ciety Paul is addressing, that it is for us he weeps, threatens and forgives, 
attacks and tenderly embraces. He wanted to say: Paul is our fictional 
contemporary because the universal content of his preaching, obstacles 
and failures included, remains absolutely real. 

For Pasolini, Paul, in revolutionary fashion, wanted to destroy a 

model of society based on social inequality, imperialism, and slavery. 
There resides in him the holy will to destruction. Certainly, in the film as 
envisioned, Paul fails, and this failure is even more internal than public. 
But he pronounces the truth of the world, and does so in the same unal¬ 
tered terms in which he spoke almost two thousand years ago. 

Pasolinis thesis is threefold: 

1. Paul is our contemporary because the sudden eruption of 
chance, the event, the pure encounter, are always at the origin of a 
saintliness. Moreover, today, the figure of the saint is necessary, even 
if the contents of the initiating encounter may vary. 

2. By transplanting Paul, along with all his statements, into our 
century, one sees them encountering there a real society every bit as 
criminal and corrupt, but infinitely more supple and resistant, than 
that of the Roman Empire. 

3. Paul s statements are endowed with a timeless legitimacy. 

The central theme is situated in the relation between actuality and 
saintliness. Whenever the world of History tends to escape into mystery, 
abstraction, pure interrogation, it is the world of the divine (of saintli¬ 
ness) which, even tally [evenementiellemeni] descended among humans, 
becomes concrete, operative. 

The film script charts the trajectory of a saintliness within an actu¬ 
ality. How is the transposition effected? 

Rome is New York, capital of American imperialism. Jerusalem, 

38 Texts and Contexts 

cultural seat occupied by the Romans, seat also of intellectual conform¬ 
ity, is Paris under the German heel. The small, nascent Christian com¬ 
munity is represented by the Resistance, while the Pharisees are the Pe- 

Paul is French, from a comfortable bourgeois background, a collab¬ 

orator, hunting members of the Resistance. 

Damascus is the Barcelona of Franco’s Spain. The fascist Paul goes 
on a mission to see supporters of Franco. On the road to Barcelona, trav¬ 
eling through southwestern France, he has an illumination. He joins the 
camp of the antifascist Resistance. 

We then follow him as he travels around preaching resistance, in 
Italy, in Spain, in Germany. Athens, the Athens of the sophists who re¬ 
fused to listen to Paul, is represented by contemporary Rome, by those 
petty Italian intellectuals and critics whom Pasolini detested. Finally, Paul 
goes to New York, where he is betrayed, arrested, and executed in sordid 

The principal aspect in this trajectory gradually becomes that of be¬ 
trayal, its wellspring being that what Paul creates (the Church, the Orga¬ 
nization, the Party) turns against his own inner saintliness. Here, Pasolini 
finds support in a major tradition (one we shall examine later) that sees 
in Paul not so much a theoretician of the Christian event as the tireless 
creator of the Church. A man of the institution: in short, a militant of 
the Third International. For Pasolini, reflecting on communism through 

Paul, the Party is what, little by little, inverts saintliness into priesthood 

through the narrow requirements of militantism. How does genuine 
saintliness (which Pasolini unhesitatingly recognizes in Paul) bear the or¬ 
deal of a History that is at once fleeting and monumental, one in which 
it constitutes an exception rather than an operation? It can only do so by 
hardening itself, by becoming authoritarian and organized. But that 
hardness, which is supposed to preserve it from all corruption by History, 
reveals itself to be an essential corruption, that of the saint by the priest. 
It is the almost necessary movement of an internal betrayal. And this in¬ 
ternal betrayal is captured by an external betrayal, so that Paul will be de¬ 
nounced. The traitor is Saint Luke, portrayed as an agent of the Devil, 
writing the Acts of the Apostles in an unctuous and emphatic style with 
the aim of eradicating saintliness. Such is Pasolini’s interpretation of the 

Texts and Contexts 39 

Acts: it is a question of writing Pauls life as if all he had ever been was a 
priest. The Acts, and more generally, the official image of Paul, present us 
with the saint erased by the priest. This is a falsification, because Paul is a 
saint. But the film script allows us to understand the truth behind this 
deception: in Paul, the immanent dialectic of saintliness and actuality 

constructs a subjective figure of the priest. Paul also dies to the extent that 
saintliness has darkened within him. 

A saintliness immersed in an actuality such as that of the Roman 
Empire, or equally, that of contemporary capitalism, can protect itself 
only by creating, with all requisite severity, a Church. But this Church 
turns saintliness into priesthood. 

The most surprising thing in all this is the way in which Paul’s texts 
are transplanted unaltered, and with an almost unfathomable natural¬ 
ness, into the situations in which Pasolini deploys them: war, fascism, 
American capitalism, the petty debates of the Italian intelligentsia . . . 

The universal value of the core of Paul’s thought, as well as of the time¬ 
lessness of his prose, successfully undergoes this artistic trial, and Paul 
emerges strangely victorious. 

Theory of Discourses 

When Paul is designated by the Jerusalem conference as apostle of 
the ethne (rather inaccurately translated as “nations”), one might think 
that, henceforth, his preaching is to relate to an absolutely open multiple 
of peoples and customs, in fact, to all the human subsets of the empire, 
which are extremely numerous. Yet consistently, Paul only explicitly men¬ 
tions two entities — the Jews and the Greeks — as if this metonymic rep¬ 
resentation sufficed, or as if, with these two referents, the multiple of the 
ethne had been exhausted so far as the Christian revelation and its uni¬ 
versal destination is concerned. What is the status of this Jew/Greek cou¬ 
ple, which single-handedly stands in for the empires “national” complex¬ 

One basic reply consists in saying that “Greek” is equivalent to 
“Gentile,” and that ultimately the multiplicity of nations is covered by 
the straightforward opposition between Jewish monotheism and official 
polytheism. However, this reply is unconvincing, because when Paul talks 
about the Greeks, or about Greek, he only very rarely associates these 
words with a religious belief. As a rule, he is talking about wisdom, and 
hence about philosophy. 

It is essential to understand that in Pauls lexicon, “Jew” and 
“Greek” do not designate anything we might spontaneously understand 

by means of the word “nation,” which is to say an objective human set 

Theory of Discourses 41 

grasped in terms of its beliefs, customs, language, territory, and so forth. 
Neither is it constituted, legalized religions that are being referred to. In 
reality, “Jew” and “Greek” are subjective dispositions . More precisely, they 
refer to what Paul considers to be the two coherent intellectual figures of 
the world he inhabits, or what could be called regimes of discourse. When 
theorizing about the Jew and the Greek, Paul is in fact presenting us with 
a schema of discourses. And this schema is designed to position a third 
discourse, his own, in such a way as to render its complete originality ap¬ 
parent. Like Lacan, who considers analytical discourse only in order to 
inscribe it within a mobile schema wherein it is connected to the dis¬ 
courses of the master, the hysteric, and the university, Paul institutes 
“Christian discourse” only by distinguishing its operations from those of 

Jewish discourse and Greek discourse. And the analogy is all the more 
striking in that, as we shall see, Paul accomplishes his objective only by 
defining a fourth discourse, which could be called mystical, as the mar¬ 

gin for his own. As if every schema of discourses had to configure a quad¬ 
rangle. But is it not Hegel who illuminates this point when, at the end of 
his Logic , he shows that the absolute Knowledge of a ternary dialectic re¬ 
quires a fourth term? 

What is Jewish discourse? The subjective figure constituted by it is 

that of the prophet. But a prophet is one who abides in the requisition of 
signs, one who signals, testifying to transcendence by exposing the ob¬ 
scure to its deciphering. Thus, Jewish discourse will be held to be, above 
all, the discourse of the sign. 

What then is Greek discourse? The subjective figure constituted by 

it is that of the wise man. But wisdom consists in appropriating the fixed 
order of the world, in the matching of the logos to being. Greek discourse 
is cosmic , deploying the subject within the reason of a natural totality. 
Greek discourse is essentially the discourse of totality, insofar as it up¬ 

holds the sophia (wisdom as internal state) of a knowledge of phusis (na¬ 
ture as ordered and accomplished deployment of being). 

Jewish discourse is a discourse of exception, because the prophetic 

sign, the miracle, election, designate transcendence as that which lies be¬ 

yond the natural totality. The Jewish nation itself is at once sign, miracle, 
and election. It is constitutively exceptional. Greek discourse bases itself 

on the cosmic order so as to adjust itself to it, while Jewish discourse 

42 Theory of Discourses 

bases itself on the exception to this order so as to turn divine transcen¬ 

dence into a sign. 

Pauls profound idea is that Jewish discourse and Greek discourse 

are the two aspects of the same figure of mastery. For the miraculous ex¬ 

ception of the sign is only the “minus-one,” the point of incoherence, 
which the cosmic totality requires in order to sustain itself. In the eyes of 

Paul the Jew, the weakness of Jewish discourse is that its logic of the ex¬ 
ceptional sign is only valid for the Greek cosmic totality. The Jew is in ex¬ 
ception to the Greek. The result is, firstly, that neither of the two dis¬ 
courses can be universal, because each supposes the persistence of the 
other; and secondly, that the two discourses share the presupposition that 
the key to salvation is given to us within the universe, whether it be 
through direct mastery of the totality (Greek wisdom), or through mas¬ 
tery of a literal tradition and the deciphering of signs (Jewish ritualism 
and prophetism). For Paul, whether the cosmic totality be envisaged as 
such or whether it be deciphered on the basis of the signs exception, in¬ 
stitutes in eveiy case a theory of salvation tied to mastery (to a law), along 
with the grave additional inconvenience that the mastery of the wise man 
and that of the prophet, necessarily unaware of their identity, divide hu¬ 
manity in two (the Jew and the Greek), thereby blocking the universality 
of the Announcement. 

Pauls project is to show that a universal logic of salvation cannot be 

reconciled with any law, be it one that ties thought to the cosmos, or one 

that fixes the effects of an exceptional election. It is impossible that the 
starting point be the Whole, but just as impossible that it be an exception 
to the Whole. Neither totality nor the sign will do. One must proceed 
from the event as such, which is a-cosmic and illegal, refusing integration 
into any totality and signaling nothing. But proceeding from the event 

delivers no law, no form of mastery, be it that of the wise man or the 


One may also say: Greek and Jewish discourse are both discourses 

of the Father. That is why they bind communities in a form of obedience 
(to the Cosmos, the Empire, God, or the Law). Only that which will 
present itself as a discourse of the Son has the potential to be universal, de¬ 

tached from every particularism. 

This figure of the son evidently fascinated Freud, just as it under¬ 

Theory of Discourses 43 

lies Pasolini’s identification with the apostle Paul. In the case of the for¬ 
mer, with regard to that Jewish monotheism for which Moses is the de- 
centered founding figure (the Egyptian as Other of the origin), Chris¬ 
tianity raises the question of the relation that sons have to the Law, with 
the symbolic murder of the Father in the background. In the case of the 
latter, the power of thought intrinsic to homosexual desire is turned to¬ 
ward the advent of an egalitarian humanity, wherein the concordance of 
the sons cancels, to the benefit of the love of the mother, the crushing 
symbolism of the fathers, which is embodied in institutions (the 
Church, or the Communist Party). In addition, Pasolinis Paul is as 
though torn between the saintliness of the son—linked, given the law of 
the world, to abjection and death—and the ideal of power proper to the 
father, which drives him to create a coercive apparatus in order to dom¬ 
inate History. 

For Paul, the emergence of the instance of the son is essentially tied 

to the conviction that “Christian discourse” is absolutely new. The for¬ 
mula according to which God sent us his Son signifies primarily an in¬ 
tervention within History, one through which it is, as Nietzsche will put 
it, “broken in two,” rather than governed by a transcendent reckoning in 
conformity with the laws of an epoch. The sending (birth) of the son 
names this rupture. That it is the son, not the father, who is exemplary, 
enjoins us not to put our trust any longer in any discourse laying claim to 
the form of mastery. 

That discourse has to be that of the son means that one must be 
neither Judeo-Christian (prophetic mastery), nor Greco-Christian (philo¬ 

sophical mastery), nor even a synthesis of the two; The opposing of a di- 
agonalization of discourses to their synthesis is a constant preoccupation 
of Paul’s. It is John who, by turning the logos into a principle, will syn¬ 
thetically inscribe Christianity within the space of the Greek logos, 
thereby subordinating it to anti-Judaism. This is certainly not the way 
Paul proceeds. For him, Christian discourse can maintain fidelity to the 
son only by delineating a third figure, equidistant from Jewish prophecy 
and the Greek logos. 

This attempt can only be accomplished through a sort of decline of 

the figure of the Master. And since there are two figures of the master, the 
one that legitimates itself on the basis of the cosmos, the master in wis- 

44 Theory of Discourses 

dom, the Greek master, and the one that legitimates itself according to 
the power of exception, the master of the letter and of signs, the Jewish 
master, Paul will be neither a prophet nor a philosopher. Accordingly, the 
triangulation he proposes is: prophet, philosopher, apostle. 

What exactly does “apostle” ( apostolos ) mean? Nothing empirical or 

historical in any case. In order to be an apostle, it is not necessary to have 
been a companion of Christ, a witness to the event. Paul, who claims his 
legitimacy only from himself, and who, according to his own expression, 
has been “called to be an apostle,” explicitly challenges the pretension of 
those who, in the name of what they were and saw, believe themselves to 
be guarantors of truth. He calls them “those who are most esteemed,” 
and seems, for his own part, not to share this esteem. He also adds, 
“What they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality” 
(Gal. 2.6). An apostle is neither a material witness, nor a memory. 

At a time when the importance of “memory” as the guardian of 
meaning and of historical consciousness as a substitute for politics is be¬ 
ing urged on us from all sides, the strength of Pauls position cannot fail 
to escape us. For it is certainly true that memory does not prevent anyone 
from prescribing time, including the past, according to its present deter¬ 
mination. I do not doubt the necessity of remembering the extermina¬ 
tion of the Jews, or the action of Resistance fighters. But I note that the 
neo-Nazi maniac harbors a collectors memory for the period he reveres, 
and that, remembering Nazi atrocities in minute detail, he relishes and 

wishes he could repeat them. I see a number of informed people, some of 
them historians, conclude on the basis of their memory of the Occupa¬ 
tion and the documents they have accumulated, that Pdtain had many 
virtues. Whence the obvious conclusion that “memory” cannot settle any 
issue. There invariably comes a moment when what matters is to declare 
in one’s own name that what took place took place, and to do so because 
what one envisages with regard to the ^^/possibilities of a situation re¬ 
quires it. This is certainly Paul’s conviction: the debate about the Resur¬ 
rection is no more a debate between historians and witnesses in his eyes 
than that about the existence of the gas chambers is in mine. We will not 
ask for proofs and counterproofs. We will not enter into debate with eru¬ 

dite anti-Semites, Nazis under the skin, with their superabundance of 
“proofs” that no Jew was ever mistreated by Hitler. 

Theory of Discourses 45 

To which it is necessary to add that the Resurrection—which is the 
point at which our comparison obviously collapses—is not, in Paul’s own 
eyes, of the order of fact, falsifiable or demonstrable. It is pure event, 

opening of an epoch, transformation of the relations between the possi¬ 

ble and the impossible. For the interest of Christ’s resurrection does not 
lie in itself, as it would in the case of a particular, or miraculous, fact. Its 
genuine meaning is that it testifies to the possible victory over death, a 
death that Paul envisages, as we shall see later in detail, not in terms of 
facticity, but in terms of subjective disposition. Whence the necessity of 
constantly linking resurrection to our resurrection, of proceeding from 
singularity to universality and vice versa: “If the dead do not resurrect, 
Christ is not resurrected either. And if Christ is not resurrected, your 
faith is in vain” (Cor. 1 .15.16). In contrast to the fact, the event is measur¬ 
able only in accordance with the universal multiplicity whose possibility 
it prescribes. It is in this sense that it is grace, and not history. 

The apostle is then he who names this possibility (the Gospels, the 

Good News, comes down to this: we can vanquish death). His discourse 
is one of pure fidelity to the possibility opened by the event. It cannot, 

therefore, in any way (and this is the upshot of Paul’s antiphilosophy) fall 

under the remit of knowledge. The philosopher knows eternal truths; the 

prophet knows the univocal sense of what will come (even if he delivers 
it only through figures, through signs). The apostle, who declares an 
unheard-of possibility, one dependent on an evental grace, properly 
speaking knows nothing. To imagine that one knows, when it is a ques¬ 
tion of subjective possibilities, is fraudulent: “He who thinks he knows 
something \egnokenai ti \, does not yet know as he ought to know” (Cor. 
I.8.2). How is one to know when one is an apostle? According to the 
truth of a declaration and its consequences, which, being without proof 
or visibility, emerges at that point where knowledge, be it empirical or 
conceptual, breaks down. In characterizing Christian discourse from the 
point of salvation, Paul does not hesitate to say: “Knowledge [gnosis ] will 
disappear”(Cor. 1 .13.8). 

The text wherein the characteristics of Christian discourse, insofar 
as it delineates the subjective figure of the apostle, are recapitulated under 
the sign of an evental disappearance of the virtues of knowledge, can be 
found in the first epistle to the Corinthians: 

4 6 Theory of Discourses 

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with elo¬ 
quent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the preach¬ 
ing of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is 
the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and 
thwart the cleverness of the clever.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? 
Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the 
world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through 
wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who 
believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ 
crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Gentiles, but to those who are 
called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is 
stronger than men. 

For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to 
worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, but 
God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God chose 
the weak things of the world to confound the strong; God chose what is base 
and despised in the world, and even things that are not, to bring to nought 
things that are, so that no one might glorify himself in his presence. (Cor. I.1.17- 

The announcement of the gospel is made without the wisdom of 
language “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” What does it 

mean for the event whose sign is the cross to be emptied of its power? 
Simply, that this event is of such a character as to render the philosophi¬ 

cal logos incapable of declaring it. The underlying thesis is that one of the 
phenomena by which one recognizes an event is that the former is like a 
point of the real [ point de r£el\ that puts language into deadlock. This dead¬ 
lock is folly ( moria) for Greek discourse, which is a discourse of reason, 
and it is a scandal {skandalon) for Jewish discourse, which insists on a sign 
of divine power and sees in Christ nothing but weakness, abjections and 
contemptible peripeteia. What imposes the invention of a new discourse, 
and of a subjectivity that is neither philosophical nor prophetic (the apos¬ 
tle), is precisely that it is only by means of such invention that the event 
finds a welcome and an existence in language. For established languages, 
it is inadmissible because it is genuinely unnamable. 

From a more ontological viewpoint, it is necessary to maintain that 
Christian discourse legitimates neither the God of wisdom (because God 

Theory of Discourses 47 

has chosen the foolish things), nor the God of power (because God has 
chosen the weak and base things). But what unites these two traditional 
determinations, and provides the basis for their rejection, is deeper still. 
Wisdom and power are attributes of God to the extent that they are at¬ 
tributes of being. God is said to be the sovereign intellect, or to govern 
the world and mens destiny to the precise extent that pure intellect is the 
supreme point of being specified by a wisdom, and universal power that 
whose innumerable signs—equally signs of Being as that which is beyond 
beings—can be distributed or applied to the becoming of men. One 
must, in Pauls logic, go so far as to say that the Christ-event testifies that 
God is not the god of Being, is not Being Paul prescribes an anticipatory 
critique of what Heidegger calls onto-theology, wherein God is thought 
as supreme being, and hence as the measure for what being as such is ca¬ 
pable of. 

The most radical statement in the text we are commenting on is in 
effect the following: “God has chosen the things that are not [ta me onta] 
in order to bring to nought those that are [ta onta ].”{ That the Christ- 
event causes nonbeings rather than beings to arise as attesting to God; 
that it consists in the abolition of what all previous discourses held as ex¬ 
isting, or being, gives a measure of the ontological subversion to which 
Pauls antiphilosophy invites the declarant or militant. 

It is th rough the invention of a language wherein folly, scandal, and 
weakness supplant knowing reason, order, and power, and wherein non- 
being is the only legitimizable affirmation of being, that Christian dis¬ 
course is articulated. In Paul’s eyes, this articulation is incompatible with 
any prospect (and there has been no shortage of them, almost from the 
time of his death onward) of a “Christian philosophy.” 

Paul’s position on the newness of Christian discourse relative to all 
forms of knowledge and the incompatibility between Christianity and 
philosophy is so radical that it unsettles even Pascal. Yes, Pascal, that 
other great figure of antiphilosophy, he who, under the modern condi¬ 
tions of the subject of science, seeks to identify the Christian subject, he 
who condemns Descartes (“useless and uncertain”), he who explicitly op¬ 
poses the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the God of the philoso¬ 
phers and scientists; Pascal does not manage to understand Paul. 

Consider for example fragment 547 of the Pensees : 

48 Theory of Discourses 

We know God only through Jesus Christ. Without this mediator, all communi¬ 
cation with God is withdrawn; through Jesus Christ, we know God. All those 
who claimed to know God and sought to prove it without Jesus Christ furnished 
only impotent proofs. But in order to prove Jesus Christ, we have the prophecies, 
which are solid and palpable proofs. And these prophecies, having been accom¬ 
plished, and proved true by the event, mark the certainty of those truths, and 
hence, the proof of Jesus Christ’s divinity. By him and through him, we thus 
know God. Without that and without Scripture, without original sin, without 
the promise and advent of a necessary Mediator, one cannot furnish absolute 
proof of God, or teach either sound doctrine or sound morality. But by Jesus 
Christ and through Jesus Christ, one furnishes proof of God, and one teaches 
morality and doctrine. Thus, Jesus Christ is men’s true God. 

But at the same time, we recognize our misery, for this God is nothing but 
the Redressor of our misery. Thus, we may properly know God only by recog¬ 
nizing our iniquities. And those who have known God without knowing their 
misery have not glorified him but glorified themselves. Quia . . . non cognovit per 
sapientiam . . . placuit Deo per stultitiam praedicationis salvos facere. 

This text easily allows us to identify what Pascal and Paul have in 
common: the conviction that the fundamental declaration has to do with 
Christ. But from that point on, things begin to diverge from a twofold 
point of view. 

1. With Paul, we notice a complete absence of the theme of media¬ 
tion! Christ is not a mediation; he is not that through which we know 
God. Jesus Christ is the pure event, and as such is not a function, even 
were it to be a function of knowledge, or revelation. 

We are confronted here with a profound general problem: Can one 
conceive of the event as a function, as a mediation? We should mention 
in passing that this question ran through the entire epoch of revolution¬ 
ary politics. For many of those faithful to it, the revolution is not what ar¬ 
rives, but what must arrive so that there can be something else; it is com¬ 
munism’s mediation, the moment of the negative. Similarly, for Pascal, 
Christ is a mediating figure, ensuring that we do not remain in a state of 
abandonment and ignorance. For Paul, by contrast, just as for those who 
think a revolution is a self-sufficient sequence of political truth, Christ is 

a coming [une venue]; he is what interrupts the previous regime of dis¬ 

courses. Christ is, in himself and for himself, what happens to us. And 
what is it that happens to us thus? We are relieved of the law. But the idea 

Theory of Discourses 49 

of mediation remains legal; it enters into composition with wisdom, with 
philosophy. This question is decisive for Paul, because it is only by being 
relieved of the law that one truly becomes a son. And an event is falsified 
if it does not give rise to a universal becoming-son. Through the event, 
we enter into filial equality. For Paul, one is either a slave, or a son. He 
would certainly have considered the Pascalian idea of mediation as still 
bound to the legality of the Father, and hence as a muted negation of 
evental radicality. 

2. Only reluctantly does Pascal admit that Christian discourse is a 
discourse of weakness, folly, and nonbeing. Paul says “folly of our preach¬ 
ing ; Pascal translates it as “knowledge of our own ignorance.” This is not 
a Pauline theme; (misery for Paul always consisting in a subjection to law. 
Pascalian antiphilosophy is classical in that it remains bound to the con¬ 
ditions for knowledge. For Paul, it is not a question of knowledge, but of 
the advent of a subject. Can there be another subject, a subjective path 
other than the one we know, and which Paul calls the subjective path of 
the flesh? This is the one and only question, which no protocol of knowl¬ 
edge can help settle. 

Because of his desire to convince the modern libertine, Pascal is 
haunted by the question of knowledge. His strategy requires that one be 
able to reasonably prove the superiority of the Christian religion. It is nec¬ 
essary to establish that the event fulfills the prophecies—singularly so in 
the case of Christ’s coming—that the New Testament legitimates the ra¬ 
tional deciphering of the Old one (via the doctrine of manifest and hid¬ 
den meaning). Correspondingly, the Old Testament draws its coherence 
from that which, within it, signals toward the New. 

Paul would have seen in the Pascalian theory of the sign and of dou¬ 
ble meaning an unacceptable concession to Jewish discourse, just as he 
would have seen in the probabilistic argumentation of the wager, as well 
as in the dialectical ratiocinations about the two infinites, an unacceptable 
concession to philosophical discourse. For Paul, the event has not come 
to prove something; it is pure beginning. Christ’s resurrection is neither 
an argument nor an accomplishment. There is no proof of the event; nor 
is the event a proof. Knowledge comes for Pascal where, for Paul, there is 
only faith. As a result, unlike Paul, Pascal considers it important to bal¬ 
ance Christian “folly” with a classical apparatus of wisdom: 

50 Theory of Discourses 

Our religion is wise and foolish. Wise, because it is the most knowledgeable, and 
the most well-based in miracles, prophecies, and so on. Foolish, because none of 
this makes one belong to it; it serves as a pretext for the condemnation of those 
who do not belong, but not for the belief of those who do belong. It is the cross 
that makes them believe, ne evacuata sit crux . And thus Saint Paul, who came in 
wisdom and signs, says he came neither in wisdom nor signs, because he came to 
convert. But those who come only to convince can say that they come in wis¬ 
dom and signs. 

We have here a perfect, entirely non-Pauline example of the Pas- 
calian technique. Let us give it a name: balanced contradiction. Pascal 
opposes conversion and conviction. In order to convert, it is doubtless 
necessary to be on the side of folly, of the preaching of the cross. But in 
order to convince, it is necessary to install oneself in the element of proof 
(miracles, prophecies, and so on). For Pascal, Paul hides his true identity. 
He acts through signs and wisdom, but because he wishes to convert, he 
claims not to. 

This Pascalian reconstruction of Paul is in fact indicative of Pascals 
reticence in the face of Pauline radicalism. For Paul expressly rejects signs, 
which belong to the order of Jewish discourse, as well as wisdom, which 

belongs to Greek discourse. He presents himself as deploying a subjective 
figure that has been subtracted from both, which means that neither mir¬ 
acles, nor the rational exegesis of prophecies, nor the order of the world 
have any value when it comes to instituting the Christian subject. But for 
Pascal, miracles and prophecies are at the heart of the question: “It is not 
possible to reasonably believe against miracles 5 (frag. 815); “The greatest 
of Christ’s proofs are prophecies” (frag. 706). Without prophecies or mir¬ 
acles, we would have no proof, and the superiority of Christianity could 
not be upheld before the tribunal of reason, which means that we would 
have no chance of convincing the modern libertine. 

For Paul, on the contrary, it is precisely the absence of proof that 
constrains faith, which is constitutive of the Christian subject. 

So far as the prophecies are concerned, whether the Christ-event is 
their realization is practically absent from Paul’s preaching considered as 
a whole. Christ is precisely incalculable. 

So far as miracles are concerned, Paul, subtle politician, does not 
risk denying their existence. One even finds him occasionally hinting 

Theory of Discourses 51 

that, like such and such among his rival thaumaturges, he is capable of 
performing them. He too could glory in supernatural raptures, if he so 
wished. But this is what he will not do, exhibiting instead the subject’s 
weakness and the absence of signs and proofs, as supreme proof. The de¬ 
cisive passage is in Corinthians. II.12.1~11: 

I must glory; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will come to visions and 
revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was 
caught up to the third heaven . . . and he heard things that cannot be told, which 
it is not lawful for man to utter. . . . Though if I wish to glorify myself, I shall not 
be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one 
may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. . . . The Lord said 
to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weak¬ 
ness.” I will all the more gladly glory in my weakness, that the power of Christ 
may rest upon me . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Clearly then, for Paul, miracles exist and have concerned him. He 
delineates a particular subjective figure, that of the “exalted” man, who 
has perhaps been summoned out of his body during the course of his life. 
But this figure is precisely not the one the apostle is going to present. The 
apostle must be accountable only for what others see and hear, which is 
to say, his declaration. He has no need to glorify himself in the name of 
that other subject who has spoken with God, and who is like an Other 
within himself (“On behalf of such a man as this I will glory, but I will 
not glory on my own behalf, except in my weaknesses” [Cor. II.12.5]). 
Christian discourse must, unwaveringly, refuse to be the discourse of mir¬ 
acle, so as to be the discourse of the conviction that bears a weakness 
within itself. 

Let us note in passing that Paul delineate^, as if in shadowy outline, 
a fourth possible discourse, besides the Greek (wisdom), the Jew (signs), 
and the Christian (evental declaration). This discourse, which Pascal tries 
to bring into the light of classical reason, would be that of the miracle, 

and Paul gives it a name: subjective discourse of glorification. It is the dis¬ 
course of the ineffable, the discourse of nondiscourse. It is the subject as 
silent and mystical intimacy, inhabited by “things that cannot be told 
[arrheta rhemata\T which would be better translated as “unutterable ut¬ 
terances” (dires ineligiblef only experienced by the subject who has been 
visited by miracle. But this fourth subjective figure, splitting the apostle 

52 Theory of Discourses 

again, must not enter into the declaration, which, on the contrary, nour¬ 
ishes itself on the inglorious evidence of weakness. It is kept off to one 
side, and unlike Pascal, Paul is convinced that Christian discourse has 
nothing to gain by using it to glorify itself. The fourth discourse (mirac¬ 
ulous, or mystical) must remain unaddressed, which is to say that it can¬ 
not enter into the realm of preaching. Paul is thereby ultimately more ra¬ 
tional than Pascal: it is vain to want to justify a declaratory stance 
through the apparel of miracle. 

For Paul, the fourth discourse will remain a mute supplement, en¬ 

closing the Other’s share in the subject. He refuses to let addressed dis¬ 
course, which is that of the declaration of faith, justify itself through an 
unaddressed discourse, whose substance consists in unutterable utter¬ 

I believe this to be an important indication, one that concerns every 
militant of a truth. There is never occasion to try to legitimate a declara¬ 
tion through the private resource of a miraculous communication with 
truth. Let us leave truth to its subjective “voicelessness,” for only the 
work of its declaration constitutes it. 

I shall call “obscurantist” every discourse that presumes to legiti¬ 

mate itself on the basis of an unaddressed discourse. It has to be said that 
Pascal, when he wants to establish the preeminence of Christianity on the 
basis of miracles, is more obscurantist than Paul, probably because he 
wants to mask the pure event behind the (libertines) fascination with a 
reckoning of chances. 

Obviously, there is an element of cunning in Paul when he lets it be 

understood, without boasting about it, but without keeping silent about 

it either, that he is internally torn between the man of glorification, the 

“ravished” subject, and the man of declaration and weakness. But it can¬ 

not be denied that there is in him, and he is alone in this among the rec¬ 
ognized apostles, an ethical dimension of antiobscurantism. For Paul will 
not permit the Christian declaration to justify itself through the ineffa¬ 

ble. He will not allow the Christian subject to base his speech on the un¬ 

Paul is profoundly convinced that weakness will not be relieved 
through a hidden force. Power is fulfilled in weakness itself Let us say 
that, for Paul, the ethics of discourse consists in never suturing the third 

Theory of Discourses 53 

discourse (the public declaration of the Christ-event) to the fourth (the 

glorification of the subject personally visited by miracle). 

This ethics is profoundly coherent. Supposing I invoke (as Pascal 
does) the fourth discourse (“joys, tears of joy . . .”), and hence the private, 
unutterable utterances, in order to justify the third (that of Christian 
faith), / relapse inevitably into the second discourse , that of the sign, the 
Jewish discourse. For what is a prophecy if not a sign of what is to come? 
And what is a miracle if not a sign of the transcendence of the True? By 
granting to the fourth discourse (mysticism) no more than a marginal 
and inactive position, Paul keeps the radical novelty of the Christian dec¬ 
laration from relapsing into the logic of signs and proofs. 

Paul firmly holds to the militant discourse of weakness. The decla¬ 
ration will have no other force than the one it declares and will not pre¬ 
sume to convince through the apparel of prophetic reckoning, of the 
miraculous exception, or of the ineffable personal revelation. It is not the 
singularity of the subject that validates what the subject says; it is what he 
says that founds the singularity of the subject. 

Pascal, by way of contrast, opts simultaneously for convincing exe¬ 
gesis, for the certainty of miracles, and for private meaning. He cannot 
relinquish proof, in the existential sense of the term, because he is of the 
classical era, and because his question is that of the Christian subject in 
the age of positive science. 

Pauls antiphilosophy is nonclassical, because he accepts that there 

is no proof, even miraculous. Discourses power of conviction is of an¬ 
other order, and it is capable of shattering the form of reasoning: 

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they have divine power to pull 
down strongholds. Through them, we destroy arguments and every proud ob¬ 
stacle to the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 
(Cor. II.10.4-5) 

It is with this regime of a discourse without proof, without mira¬ 
cles, without convincing signs, with this language of the naked event, 
which alone captures thought, that the magnificent and famous 
metaphor in Corinthians II.4.7 resonates: “But we have this treasure in 
earthen vessels, to show that the greatness of this power belongs to God 
and not to us.” 

54 Theory of Discourses 

The treasure is nothing but the event as such, which is to say a 
completely precarious having-taken-place. It must be borne humbly, with 
a precariousness appropriate to it. The third discourse must be accom¬ 
plished in weakness, for therein lies its strength. It shall be neither logos, 
nor sign, nor ravishment by the unutterable. It shall have the rude harsh¬ 
ness of public action, of naked declaration, without apparel other than 
that of its real content. There will be nothing but what each can see and 
hear. This is the earthen vessel. 

Whoever is the subject of a truth (of love, of art, or science, or pol¬ 

itics) knows that, in effect, he bears a treasure, that he is traversed by an 
infinite power. Whether or not this truth, so precarious, continues to de¬ 
ploy itself depends solely on his subjective weakness. Thus, one may jus¬ 
tifiably say that he bears it only in an earthen vessel, day after day endur¬ 
ing the imperative—delicacy and subtle thought—to ensure that nothing 
shatters it. For with the vessel, and with the dissipation into smoke of the 
treasure it contains, it is he, the subject, the anonymous bearer, the her¬ 
ald, who is equally shattered. 

The Division of the Subject 

For Paul to maintain that, under the condition of the Christ-event, 
there has been a choice for things that are not against things that are, in¬ 

dicates in an exemplary way that in his eyes Christian discourse bears an 
absolutely new relation to its object. It is truly another figure of the real 

that is in question. This figure will deploy itself through the revelation 
that what constitutes the subject in its relation to this unheard-of real is 
not its unity, but its division. For, in reality, one subject is the weaving to¬ 
gether of two subjective paths, which Paul names the flesh (sarx) and the 
spirit ( pneuma ). And the real in turn, insofar as it is in some way 
“grasped” by the two paths that constitute the subject, can be inflected 
according to two names: death ( thanatos ), or life (zde). Insofar as the real 
is that which is thought in a subjectivating thought, it will be possible to 
maintain, according to a difficult, central aphorism, that to garphronema 
tes sarkos thanatos , to dephronema tou pneumatos zde (Rom. 8.6), which, 
in spite of the difficulty of identifying death as a thought, one must not 
hesitate to translate as: “The thought of the flesh is death; the thought of 
the spirit is life.” 

After centuries during which this theme has been subjected to Pla- 
tonizing (and therefore Greek) amendment, it has become almost im¬ 
possible to grasp what is nevertheless a crucial point: The opposition be¬ 
tween spirit andflesh has nothing to do with the opposition between the soul 

5 6 The Division of the Subject 

and the body. That is precisely why both the one and the other are 
thoughts, each identifying its real through an opposed name. If, evoking 
his existence as a persecutor prior to the Damascus conversion, Paul can 
affirm that “the very commandment which promised life, proved to be 
death to me” (Rom. 7.10), it is because a subjective maxim is always taken 
up in two possible senses, according to the flesh or according to the spirit, 
without it being possible for any substantial distinction of the Greek kind 
(soul and body, thought and sensibility) to unravel the subjective weav¬ 
ing. It is of the essence of the Christian subject to be divided, through its 
fidelity to the Christ-event, into two paths that affect every subject in 

The theory of subjective division disqualifies what other d iscourses 
identify as their object. It is, in the guise of the evental character of the 

real, the upsurge ( surrection ) of an other object. 

In Greek discourse, the object is the finite cosmic totality as so¬ 
journ of thought. The real causes the (philosophical) desire to occupy 
the place allotted to you in adequate fashion, an allocation of places 
whose principle thought can recover. What thought identifies as properly 
real is a place, a sojourn, which the wise man knows it is necessary to 
consent to. 

For Paul, the Christ-event, which shears and undoes the cosmic to¬ 
tality, is precisely what indicates the vanity of places. The real is attested 
to rather as the refuse from every place, there where the subject rehearses 
his weakness: “We have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, 
the offscouring of all things” (Cor. 1 .4.13). One must therefore assume the 
subjectivity of refuse, and it is in the face of this abasement that the ob¬ 
ject of Christian discourse suddenly appears. 

One will note the consonance with certain Lacanian themes con¬ 
cerning the ethics of the analyst: at the end of the treatment, the latter 
must, similarly, consent to occupy the position of refuse so that the 
analysand may endure some encounter with his or her real. By virtue of 
which, as Lacan notes, the analyst comes very close to saintliness. 

For Jewish discourse, the object is elective belonging, exceptional 
alliance between God and his people. The entirety of the real is marked 
by the seal of that alliance and is gathered and manifested through the 
observance of the law. The real is set out on the basis of commandment. 

The Division of the Subject 57 

The exception that constitutes it is conceivable only through the imme¬ 
morial dimension of the law. 

For Paul, the Christ-event is heterogeneous to the law, pure excess 

over every prescription, grace without concept or appropriate rite. The 
real can no more be what in elective exception becomes literalized in 
stone as timeless law (Jewish discourse), than it is what comes or returns 
to its place (Greek discourse). The “folly of our preaching” will exempt us 
from Greek wisdom by discontinuing the regime of places and totality. It 
will exempt us from the Jewish law by discontinuing observances and 
rites. The pure event can be reconciled neither with the natural Whole, 
nor with the imperative of the letter. 

For him who considers that the real is pure event, Jewish and Greek 
discourses no longer present, as they continue to do in the work of Levi¬ 
nas, the paradigm of a major difference for thought. This is the driving 
force behind Pauls universalist conviction: that “ethnic” or cultural dif¬ 
ference, of which the opposition between Greek and Jew is in his time, 
and in the empire as a whole, the prototype, is no longer significant with 
regard to the real, or to the new object that sets out a new discourse! No 

real distinguishes the first two discourses any longer, and their distinction 
collapses into rhetoric. As Paul declares, defying the evidence: “There is 
no distinction between Jew and Greek” (Rom. 10.12). 

More generally, the moment the real is identified as event, making 
way for the division of the subject, the figures of distinction in discourse 
are terminated, because the position of the real instituted by them is re¬ 
vealed, through the retroaction of the event, to be illusory. Similarly, for 
the subject divided according to the paths through which the real is 
grasped—that of the flesh and that of the spirit—the “ethnic” subjects 
brought about by Jewish law just as by Greek wisdom become disquali¬ 
fied to the extent that they lay claim to the perpetuation of a full or un¬ 
divided subject, whose particular predicates it would be possible to enu¬ 
merate: genealogy, origin, territory, rituals, and so on. 

To declare the nondifference between Jew and Greek establishes 
Christianity’s potential universality; to found the subject as division, 

rather than as perpetuation of a tradition, renders the subjective element 
adequate to this universality by terminating the predicative particularity 
of cultural subjects. 

58 The Division of the Subject 

There is no doubt that universalism, and hence the existence of any 

truth whatsoever, requires the destitution of established differences and 

the initiation of a subject divided in itself by the challenge of having 

nothing but the vanished event to face up to. 

The whole challenge is that a discourse configuring the real as pure 
event be consistent. Is this possible? Paul tries to pursue this path. 

Let us emphasize once more that, since the event that he takes to 

identify the real is not real (because the Resurrection is a fable), he is able 

to do so only by abolishing philosophy. This is probably what distin¬ 

guishes Paul from contemporary antiphilosophers, who circumscribe the 
real-event within the realm of effective truths: “grand politics” for Nietz¬ 

sche; the archi-scientific analytic act for Lacan; mystical aesthetics for 
Wittgenstein. The result is that, so far as philosophy is concerned, Pauls 
subjective position is far more abrupt than the therapeutic approach of 
the moderns, who all want to cure thought from the philosophical sick¬ 
ness. Pauls thesis is not that philosophy is an error, a necessary illusion, a 
phantasm, and so forth, but that there is no longer an admissible place 
for its pretension, The discourse of wisdom is definitively obsolete. This 
is what, manufactured though it probably is, is symbolized by the ac¬ 
count in the Acts of the Apostles of Pauls encounter with the Greek 
philosophers on the Areopagus. It seems that the philosophers burst out 
laughing as soon as Pauls harangue touched on the only real of any im¬ 
port, which is the Resurrection. This Nietzschean laughter, in the sense 
of the Antichrist, expresses a disjunction, and not an opposition. The dis¬ 
junctive formula is “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the 
weakness of God is stronger than men” (Cor. I.1.25). The primacy of fool¬ 
ishness over wisdom, and of weakness over strength, commands the dis¬ 
sipation of the formula of mastery, without which philosophy cannot ex¬ 
ist. Henceforth, it is no longer even possible to discuss philosophy; one 
must declare its effective expiration, along with that of every figure of 

Paul never stops telling us that the Jews are looking for signs and 
“demanding miracles,” that the Greeks are “looking for wisdom” and ask¬ 
ing questions, that the Christians declare Christ crucified. To demand— 
to question—to declare: such are the verbal forms proper to the three dis¬ 
courses, their subjective postures. 

The Division of the Subject 59 

If one demands signs, he who performs them in abundance be¬ 

comes a master for him who demands them. If one questions philosoph¬ 
ically, he who can reply becomes a master for the perplexed subject. But 
he who declares without prophetic or miraculous guarantees, without ar¬ 

guments or proofs, does not enter into the logic of the master. Declara¬ 
tion, in effect, is not affected by the emptiness (of the demand) wherein 
the master installs himself. He who declares does not attest to any lack 
and remains withdrawn from its fulfillment by the figure of the master. 
This is why it is possible for him to occupy the place of the son. To de¬ 

clare an event is to become the son of that event. That Christ is Son is 
emblematic of the way in which the evental declaration filiates the de¬ 

Philosophy knows only disciples. But a son-subject is the opposite 
of a disciple-subject, because he is one whose life is beginning) The pos¬ 
sibility of such a beginning requires that God the Father has filiated him¬ 
self, that he has assumed the form of the son. It is by consenting to the 
figure of the son, as expressed by the enigmatic term “sending,” that the 
Father causes us ourselves to come forth universally as sons. The son is he 
for whom nothing is lacking, for he is nothing but beginning. “So 
through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an 
heir” (Gal. 4.7). 

The father, always particular, withdraws behind his sons universal 
evidence. It is quite true that all postevental universality equalizes sons 
through the dissipation of the particularity of the fathers. Whence the 
way in which every truth is marked by an indestructible youthfulness. 

Later, theology will indulge in all sorts of contortions in order to es¬ 
tablish the substantial identity of Father and Son. Paul has no interest at 
all in such Trinitarian questions?. The antiphilosophical metaphor of the 
“sending of the son” is enough for him, for he requires only the event and 
refuses all philosophical reinscription of this pure occurrence by means of 
the philosophical vocabulary of substance and identity. 

The resurrected Son filiates all of humanity. This constitutes the 
uselessness of the figure of knowledge and its transmission. For Paul, the 
figure of knowledge is itself a figure of slavery, like that of the law. The 
figure of mastery is in reality a fraud. One must depose the master and 
found the equality of sons. 

6o The Division of the Subject 

The most powerful expression of this equality, necessary correlate of 
this universality, can be found in Corinthians 1 .3.9. We are all theou 

sunergoi , Gods coworkers. This is a magnificent maxim. Where the figure 
of the master breaks down come those of the worker and of equality, con¬ 

joined; All equality is that of belonging together to a work. Indubitably, 
those participating in a truth procedure are coworkers in its becoming. 
This is what the metaphor of the son designates: a son is he whom an 
event relieves of the law and everything related to it for the benefit of a 
shared egalitarian endeavor. 

It is nevertheless necessary to return to the event, upon which 
everything depends, and particularly the sons, coworkers in the enterprise 
of Truth. What must the event be for universality and equality to belong 
together under the aegis of the universal son? 

For Paul, the event is certainly not the biography, teachings, re¬ 
counting of miracles, aphorisms with a double meaning, of a particular 
individual: to wit, Jesus. The rule that applies to the divided Christian 
subject, and which privileges the active real of the declaration over private 
illumination, impersonal faith over particular exploits, also applies to Je¬ 
sus. In the case of the latter, Paul, once again, will not deny that the Son 
enjoyed internal communication with the divine, that he was inhabited 
by unutterable utterances, and that, so far as miraculous cures, multipli¬ 
cation of loaves, walking on water, and other amazing feats are con¬ 
cerned, he was the equal of any of the charlatans that abounded in the 
empires eastern provinces. He simply reminds us, even if only by delib¬ 
erately neglecting to mention these extraneous virtuosities, that none of 
this is enough to found a new era of Truth. What the particular individ¬ 

ual named Jesus said and did is only the contingent material seized upon 
by the event in view of an entirely different destiny. In this sense, Jesus is 

neither a master nor an example. He is the name for what happens to us 

Nietzsche, for whom Paul approaches the gospel accounts with “the 
cynicism of a rabbi,” perfectly perceived the apostles complete indiffer¬ 
ence to the anecdotal gentleness with which these accounts are filled. For 
Nietzsche, this is an instance of deliberate falsification, one wherein the 
hatred of life and the lust for power are given free rein: 

The Division of the Subject 61 

The life, the example, the teaching, the death, the meaning and the right of the 
entire Gospel—nothing was left once this hate-obsessed counterfeiter had 
grasped what alone he could make us of. Not the reality, not the historical truth! 

. . . Paul simply shifted the centre of gravity of that entire existence beyond this 
existence—into the lie of the “resurrected” Jesus. In fact, he could make no use 
at all of the redeemers life—he needed the death on the Cross and something in 
addition. (TheAnti-Christ, §42) 

This is not inaccurate. Like every genuine theoretician of truth, 

Paul, as we have seen, does not believe that there can be a “historical 
Or rather, he does not believe truth to be a matter of history, of 
witnessing, of memory Nietzsche, for his part, did not believe it either, 
for his genealogical doctrine is in no way historical. And it is true that, in 
Pauls eyes, without the motif of the Resurrection, Christs existence 
would have been of little more importance than that of any other Orien¬ 
tal mystic, however talented. 

But Nietzsche is not precise enough. When he writes that Paul 

needs only Christs death “and something in addition,” he should em- 

ph asize that this “something” is not “in addition” to death, that it is for 

Paul the unique point of the real onto which his thought fastens. And 

thus that, if he “shifted the center of gravity of that [Christs] entire exis¬ 
tence beyond this existence,” it is neither in accordance with death, nor 
in accordance with hate, but in accordance with a principle of overexis¬ 
tence on the basis of which life, affirmative life, was restored and re¬ 
founded for all. 

Does not Nietzsche himself want to “shift the center of gravity” of 
men’s life beyond their contemporary nihilist decadence? And does he 
not require for this operation three closely related themes of which Paul 
is the inventor: to wit, that of the self-legitimating subjective declaration 
(the character of Zarathustra), the breaking of History in two (“grand 
politics”), and the new man as the end of guilty slavery and affirmation 
of life (the Overman)? If Nietzsche is so violent toward Paul, it is because 
he is his rival far more than his opponent. The result being that he “falsi¬ 

fies” Paul at least as much as, if not more than, Paul “falsified” Jesus. 

To say that Paul shifted “the center of gravity of life out of life into 
the ‘Beyond’—into Nothingness,” and that in so doing he “deprived life 

62 The Division of the Subject 

as such of its centre of gravity” {The Anti-Christ, §43), is to maintain the 
very opposite of the apostle’s teaching, for whom it is here and now that 
life takes revenges on death, here and now that we can live affirmatively, 
according to the spirit, rather than negatively, according to the flesh, 
which is the thought of death. For Paul, the Resurrection is that on the 
basis of which life’s center of gravity resides in life, whereas previously, be¬ 
ing situated in the Law, it organized life’s subsumption by death. 

In reality, the core of the problem is that Nietzsche harbors a gen¬ 

uine loathing for universalism. Not always: this mad saint is a violent liv¬ 
ing contradiction, a breaking in two of himself. But where Paul is con¬ 
cerned, yes: “The poison of the doctrine equal rights for all’—this has 
been more thoroughly sowed by Christianity than by anything else” ( The 
Anti-Christ , §43). Where God is concerned, Nietzsche extols the virtues 
of the most obstinate particularism, the most unbridled racial communi- 
tarianism: “Formerly he [God] represented a people, the strength of a 
people, everything aggressive and thirsting for power in the soul of a peo¬ 
ple. . . . There is in fact no other alternative for Gods: either they are the 
will to power—and so long as they are that they will be national Gods— 
or else the impotence for power” {The Anti-Christ, §16). What Nietz¬ 
sche—on this point remaining a German “mythologue” (in Lacoue- 
Labarthe’s sense of the term)—cannot forgive Paul for is not so much to 
have willed Nothingness, but to have rid us of these sinister “national 
Gods” and to have formulated a theory of a subject who, as Nietzsche ad¬ 
mirably, albeit disgustedly, puts it, is universally, “a rebel . . . against 
everything privileged” {The Anti-Christ, §46). 

Moreover, while protesting against Paul in the name of “historical 
truth,” Nietzsche does not seem to have appropriately situated the apos¬ 
tle’s preaching relative to the canonical shaping of the gospel narratives. 
He pays little attention to the fact that these narratives, wherein he claims 
to discern the “psychology of the Redeemer” (a Buddha of decadence, a 
partisan of the quiet, empty life, “the last man”), were composed and or¬ 
ganized long after Paul fiercely seized upon the only point that is super¬ 
numerary relative to this “Buddhist” edification: the Resurrection. 

But nothing is more indispensable than to keep in mind the tem¬ 
poral relation between the synoptic Gospels, in which the edifying anec¬ 
dote is essential, and Paul’s epistles, charged from beginning to end with 

The Division of the Subject 63 

the revolutionary announcement of a spiritual history that has been bro¬ 
ken in two. The Gospels literally come twenty years later. The Pauline 
reference is of a different substance. The event is not a teaching; Christ is 

not a master; disciples are out of the question. Jesus is certainly “lord” 

{kurios), and Paul his “servant” {doulos). But the Christ-event establishes 
the authority of a new subjective path over future eras. The fact that we 
must serve a truth procedure is not to be confused with slavery, which is 
precisely that from which we are forever released insofar as we all become 
sons of what has happened to us. The relation between lord and servant 
differs absolutely from that between master and disciple, as well as from 
that between owner and slave. It is not a relation of personal, or legal, de¬ 
pendence. It is a community of destiny in that moment in which we have 
to become a “new creature.” That is why we need retain of Christ only 
what ordains this destiny, which is indifferent to the particularities of the 
living person: Jesus is resurrected; nothing else matters, so that Jesus be¬ 
comes like an anonymous variable, a “someone” devoid of predicative 
traits, entirely absorbed by his resurrection. 

The pure event is reducible to this: Jesus died on the cross and res¬ 
urrected. This event is “grace” ( kharis ). Thus, it is neither a bequest, nor 
a tradition, nor a teaching. It is supernumerary relative to all this and 
presents itself as pure givenness. 

As subject to the ordeal of the real, we are henceforth constituted by 
evental grace. The crucial formula—which, it must be noted, is simulta¬ 
neously a universal address—is: ou gar este hupo nomon all’ hup0 kharin, 
“for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6.14). A structuring 
of the subject according to a “not . . . but” through which it must be un¬ 
derstood as a becoming rather than a state. For the “not being under law” 
negatively indicates the path of the flesh as suspension of the subject’s 
destiny, while “being under grace” indicates the path of the spirit as fi¬ 
delity to the event. The subject of the new epoch is a “not. . . but.” The 
event is at once the suspension of the path of the flesh through a prob¬ 
lematic “not,” and the affirmation of the path of the spirit through a 
“but” of exception. Law and grace are for the subject the name of the 
constituting weave through which he is related to the situation as it is and 
to the effects of the event as they have to become. 

We shall maintain, in effect, that an evental rupture always consti- 

64 The Division of the Subject 

tutes its subject in the divided form of a “not. . . but,” and that it is pre¬ 
cisely this form that bears the universal For the “not” is the potential dis¬ 
solution of closed particularities (whose name is “law”), while the “but” 
indicates the task, the faithful labor, in which the subjects of the process 

opened up by the event (whose name is “grace”) are the coworkers. The 

universal is neither on the side of the flesh as conventional lawfulness and 
particular state of the world, nor on the side of the pure spirit, as private 

inhabitation by grace and truth. The Jewish discourse of the rite and the 
law is undermined by the event’s superabundance, but, equally, the arro¬ 
gant discourse of internal revelation and the unutterable is abolished. The 
second and fourth discourses must be revoked because they unify the sub¬ 
ject. Only the third discourse holds to its division as a guarantee of uni¬ 
versality. If the event is able to enter into the constitution of the subject 
declaring it, it is precisely because through it, and irrespective of the par¬ 
ticularity of persons, it ceaselessly redivides the two paths, distributing 
the “not . . . but,” which, through an endless process, sets aside the law 
the better to enter into grace. 

The Antidialectic of Death 
and Resurrection 

We said: the event consists in Jesus, the Christ, dying on the cross 

and coming back to life. What is death’s function in this affair? Does 
Paul’s thought ultimately constitute, as Nietzsche believed, a moribund 

paradigm, an eventalization of the hatred of life? 

Or again: Is the Pauline conception of the event dialectical?! Is the 
path of affirmation always that of the labor of the negative, so that “the 
life of the spirit is the life that withstands death and maintains itself in 
it”? We know how much the Hegelian apparatus owes to Christianity, 

and how dialectical philosophy incorporates the theme of a Calvary of 

the Absolute. In that case, resurrection is nothing but the negation of the 
negation, death is the decisive time of the Infinite’s self-externalization, 
and suffering and martyrdom possess an intrinsically redemptive func¬ 
tion, which, it has to be said, corresponds to a Christian imagery that has 
been omnipresent for centuries. 

If the theme of resurrection becomes caught up in the dialectical 
apparatus, it must be conceded that the event as supernumerary given¬ 
ness and incalculable grace is dissolved into an auto-foundational and 
necessarily deployed rational protocol. It is certainly true that Hegelian 
philosophy, which is the rational edge of German romanticism, effects a 
capture of the Christ-event. In Hegel, grace becomes a moment in the 
self-development of the Absolute, and the material of death and suffering 

66 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

is the due required so that spirituality, externalizing itself in finitude, can 
return into itself through the experienced intensity of self-consciousness. 

I shall maintain that Pauls position is antidialectical, and that for it 
death is in no way the obligatory exercise of the negatives immanent 
power. Grace, consequently, is not a “moment” of the Absolute. It is af¬ 
firmation without preliminary negation; it is what comes upon us in 
caesura of the law. It is pure and simple encounter. 

This de-dialectization of the Christ-event allows us to extract a for¬ 
mal, wholly secularized conception of grace from the mythological core. 
Everything hinges on knowing whether an ordinary existence, breaking 
with times cruel routine, encounters the material chance of serving a 
truth, thereby becoming, through subjective division and beyond the 
human animals survival imperatives, an immortal. 

If Paul helps us to seize the link between evental grace and the uni¬ 
versality of the True, it is so that we can tear the lexicon of grace and en¬ 
counter away from its religious confinement. That materialism is never 
anything but the ideology of the determination of the subjective by the 
objective disqualified it philosophically. Or let us posit that it is incum¬ 
bent upon us to found a materialism of grace through the strong, simple 
idea that every existence can one day be seized by what happens to it and 
subsequently devote itself to that which is valid for all, or as Paul mag¬ 
nificently puts it, “become all things to all men [toispasigegona tapantaf 
(Cor. I.9.22). 

Yes, we are the beneficiaries of certain graces, ones for which there 
is no need to invoke an All-Powerful. 

For Paul himself, who certainly upholds and exalts the transcendent 
machinery, |the event is not death, it is resurrection. 

Let us, on this delicate point, provide a few indications. 

Suffering plays no role in Pauls apologetic, not even in the case of 
Christs death. The weak, abject character of that death is certainly im¬ 
portant for him, insofar as the treasure of the event—we have already said 
why—has to reside in an earthen vessel. But for Paul, that the force of a 
truth is immanent to that which is weakness and folly so far as the estab¬ 
lished discourses are concerned, never entails that suffering possesses an 
intrinsically redemptive function. The share of suffering is inevitable; 
such is the law of the world. But hope, wagered by the event and the sub¬ 

The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 67 

ject who binds himself to it, distributes consolation as that suffering’s 
only real, here and now: “Or hope for you is unshaken, for we know that 
as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our consolation” 
(Cor. II.1.7). In fact, the glory tied to the thought of “invisible things” is 
incommensurable with the inevitable sufferings inflicted by the ordinary 
world: “For these slight momentary afflictions are preparing for us an 
eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (Cor. II.4.17). 

When Paul speaks of his own sufferings it is in accordance with a 
strictly militant logic. It is a matter of convincing dissident groups, or 
ones tempted by the adversary, that he, Paul, is well and truly the risk¬ 
taking, disinterested man of action he claims to be. This is particularly so 
in the second epistle to the Corinthians, marked by a very noticeable po¬ 
litical anxiety, in which Paul alternates flattery and threats (“I beg of you 
that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such con¬ 
fidence as I count on showing against some” [Cor. II.10.2]). At this point, 
deployed as part of a tactic in which pleas are combined with rivalry, 
there comes the powerful description of the hardships endured by the no¬ 
madic leader: 

Often near death, five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty 
lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. 
Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; 
on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers . . . danger in 
the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren, in 
toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often 
without food, in cold and exposure. (Cor. II.11.23-27) 

But the conclusion of this biographical passage, entirely designed to 
confound those who “when they measure themselves by one another and 
compare themselves with one another, are without understanding” (Cor. 
II.10.12), ascribes no redemptive signification to the apostle’s tribulations. 

Here again, as always, it is a question of the earthen vessel, of the 
postevental bearing of weakness, of the destitution of the worldly criteria 
of glory: “If I must glory, I will glory in the things that show my weak¬ 
ness” (Cor. II.11.30). 

Let us propose the formula: in Paul, there is certainly the Cross, but 

no path of the Cross. There is Calvary, but no ascent to Calvary. Ener- 

68 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

getic and urgent, Pauls preaching includes no masochistic propaganda 
extolling the virtues of suffering, no pathos of the crown of thorns, flag¬ 
ellation, oozing blood, or the gall-soaked sponge. 

We come now to the Cross. 

For Paul, death cannot be the operation of salvation. For it is on the 

side of flesh and the law. It is, as we have seen, the configuration of the 

real through the subjective path of the flesh. Not only has it no sacred 

function, no spiritual assignation; it cannot have one. 

To understand its function, it is once more necessary to forget the 
Platonic apparatus of the soul and the body, of the souls survival, or its 
immortality. Pauls thought ignores these parameters. The death about 
which Paul tells us, which is ours as much as Christs, has nothing bio¬ 
logical about it, no more so for that matter than life. Death and life are 
thoughts, interwoven dimensions of the global subject, wherein “body” 
and “soul” are indiscernible (which is why, for Paul, the Resurrection is 
necessarily resurrection of the body—that is to say, resurrection of the di¬ 
vided subject in its entirety). Grasped as thought, as subjective path, as 
way of being in the world, death is that part of the divided subject that 
must, again and always, say “no” to the flesh and maintain itself in the 
precarious becoming of the spirits “but.” 

Death, which is the thought of (= according to) the flesh cannot be 

constitutive of the Christ-event. Death is, moreover, an Adamic phe¬ 

nomenon. It was, properly speaking, invented by Adam, the first man. 
Corinthians 1 .15.22 is perfectly clear on this point: “For as by a man came 
death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in 
Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Death is as ancient 
as the first mans choice of a rebellious freedom. What constitutes an 
event in Christ is exclusively the Resurrection, that anastasis nekron that 
should be translated as the raising up of the dead, their uprising, which is 
the uprising of life. 

Why then must Christ die, and to what ends does Paul expand on 
the symbol of the cross? 

In the text above, one must pay careful attention to the fact that 
only the resurrection of a man can in a certain sense accord with or be sit¬ 
uated on the same level as the invention of death by a man. Christ in¬ 
vents life, but can do so only insofar as he, just like the inventor of death, 

The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 69 

is a man, a thought, an existence. Ultimately, Adam and Jesus, the first 
Adam and the second Adam, incarnate, at the scale of humanity’s destiny, 
the subjective weave that composes, as constituting division, any singular 
subject whatsoever. Christ dies simply in order to attest that it well and 
truly is a man who, capable of inventing death, is also capable of invent¬ 
ing life. -Or: Christ dies in order to manifest that, in spite of his also be¬ 
ing caught up in the human invention of death, it is from this very point 
(indexing what humanity is capable of) that he invents life. 

In sum, death is only required insofar as, with Christ, divine inter¬ 

vention must, in its very principle, become strictly equal to the human¬ 
ity of man, and hence to the thought that dominates him, which as sub¬ 
ject is called “flesh,” and as object “death.” When Christ dies, we, 
mankind, shall cease to be separated from God, since by filiating Himself 

with the sending of his Son, He enters into the most intimate proximity 
to our thinking composition. 

Such is the unique necessity of Christs death: it is the means to an 
equality with God himself. Through this thought of the flesh, whose real 
is death, is dispensed to us in grace the fact of being in the same element 
as God himself. Death here names a renunciation of transcendence. Let 
us say that Christ s death sets up an immanentization of the spirit. 

Paul is perfectly aware that maintaining a radical transcendence of 
the Father allows neither the event, nor the rupture with the legal order. 
For only the deathly immobility of the Law, that “minister of death, 
carved in letters on stone” (Cor. II.3.7), can occupy the abyss separating 
us from God. 

In Romans 6.4—9, Paul establishes that a doctrine of the real as 
event has conditions of immanence, and that we can enter into relation 
with death only insofar as God enters into relation with it. The operation 
of death thereby constructs the site of our divine equality within human¬ 
ity itself: 

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was 
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of 

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly 
be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was cru¬ 
cified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no 

70 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is free from sin. But if we have 
died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that 
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. 

The text is explicit: death as such counts for nothing in the opera¬ 
tion of salvation. It functions as a condition of immanence. We conform 
to Christ insofar as he conforms to us. The cross (we have been crucified 
with Christ) is the symbol of that identity. And this conformity is possi¬ 
ble because death is not a biological fact but a thought of the flesh, one 
of whose names—an extremely complex one, to which we shall come 
back—is “sin.” Paul calls this immanentization a “reconciliation” (katal¬ 
lage ): “For if while we were enemies of God we were reconciled to him by 
the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be 
saved by his life” (Rom. 5.10). 

It is imperative not to confuse katallage , reconciliation, which is the 
operation of death, with soteria , salvation, which is the evental operation 
of resurrection. The former immanentizes the conditions of the latter 
without thereby rendering the latter necessary. Through Christs death, 
God renounces his transcendent separation; he unseparates himself 
through filiation and shares in a constitutive dimension of the divided 
human subject. In so doing he creates, not the event, but what I call its 
site. The evental site is that datum that is immanent to a situation and 
enters into the composition of the event itself, addressing it to this singu¬ 
lar situation, rather than another. Death is construction of the evental site 
insofar as it brings it about that resurrection (which cannot be inferred 
from it) will have been addressed to men, to their subjective situation. 
Reconciliation is a given of the site, a virtual indication—inoperative by 
itself—of the extent to which Christs resurrection consists in the inven¬ 
tion of a new life by man. Resurrection alone is a given of the event, 
which mobilizes the site and whose operation is salvation. 

Ultimately, to understand the relation between katallage and 
soteria , which is just as much the relation between death and life, is to 
understand that, 'for Paul, there is an absolute disjunction between 
Christs death and his resurrection. For death is an operation in the situ¬ 
ation, an operation that immanentizes the evental site, while resurrection 
is the event as such. Fience the fact that Pauls argument is foreign to all 

The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 71 

dialectics. Resurrection is neither a sublation, nor an overcoming of 
death. They are two distinct function^, (whose articulation contains no 
necessity. For the events sudden emergence never follows from the exis¬ 
tence of an evental site. Although it requires conditions of immanence, 
that sudden emergence nevertheless remains of the order of grace. 

This is why Nietzsche goes completely astray when he turns Paul 
into the archetypal priest, power subordinated to the hatred of life. We 
are all familiar with the diatribe: 

Then Paul appeared. . . . Paul, Chandala hatred against Rome, against “the 
world,” become flesh and genius, the Jew, the eternal Jew par excellence. . . . This 
was his vision on the road to Damascus: he grasped that to disvalue “the world” 
he needed the belief in immortality, that the concept “Flell” will master even 
Rome—that with the “Beyond” one kills life. . . . Nihilist and Christian: they 
rhyme, and do not merely rhyme. (The Anti-Christ, §58) 

Nothing in this text fits. We have already said enough to under¬ 
stand that “belief in immortality” is no concern of Pauls, who would far 
rather see affirmation triumph over negation, life over death, the new 
man (the overman?) over the old man; that, in the case of a man who was 
particularly proud of his Roman citizenship, the hatred against Rome is 
Nietzsches invention; that “the world” that Paul declares has been cruci¬ 
fied with Jesus is the Greek cosmos, the reassuring totality that allots 
P 1 aces and orders thought to consent to those places, and that it is conse¬ 
quently a question of letting in the vital rights of the infinite and the un- 
totalizable event; that no mention is made of hell in Pauls preaching, and 
that it is a characteristic of his manner never to appeal to fear and always 
to courage; finally, that “to kill life” is certainly not the intent of he who 

asks with a sort of savage joy: “O death, where is thy victory?” (Cor. 
I.15.55). Pauls program would be better summar ized by the formula “to 
kill death.” 

He who demanded Dionysian affirmation, him who, like Paul, be¬ 
lieved himself to be breaking the history of the world in two, and to be 
everywhere substituting life’s “yes” for nihilism’s “no,” would have found 
better inspiration by citing this passage: 

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silvanus and 
Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. (Cor. II.1.19) 

72 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

This is what Paul is about: not the cult of death but the foundation of a 
universal “yes.” 

Similarly, he who wished that, beyond good and evil, beyond rites 
and priests, the new man, the overhumanity of which humanity is capa¬ 
ble, might come forth, could have invoked Paul in his favor, the Paul who 
declares, in a very Nietzschean tone: “For neither circumcision counts for 
anything, nor uncircumcision, but being a new creature” (Gal. 6.15). 

Nietzsche is Pauls rival far more than his opponent. Both share the 

same desire to initiate a new epoch in human history, the same convic¬ 

tion that man can and must be overcome, the same certainty that we 
must have done with guilt and law. Is he not Nietzsches brother, the Paul 
who declares: “For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condem¬ 
nation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor” 
(Cor. II.3.9)? They share the same—sometimes brutal—combination of 
vehemence and saintly gentleness. The same touchiness. The same cer¬ 
tainty as to being personally chosen. Nietzsche expounding the reasons 
why he is “a destiny” is the counterpart to the Paul who knows he has 
been “set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1.1). And finally, they share 
the same universality of address, the same global wandering. In order to 
found a grand (and even, he says, a “very grand”) politics, Nietzsche 
questions the resources of all peoples, declares himself Polish, wants to 
enter into alliance with the Jews, writes to Bismarck. . . . And in order 
not to become prisoner of any local group or provincial sect, Paul travels 
ideally throughout the empire and rebuts those who wish to pin him 
down with: “I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, 
both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom. 1.14). 

The truth is that both brought antiphilosophy to the point where it 

no longer consists in a “critique,” however radical, of the whims and pet¬ 

tinesses of the metaphysician or sage. A much more serious matter is at 
issue: that of bringing about through the event an unqualified affirmation 

of life against the reign of death and the negative. Of being he who, Paul 
or Zarathustra, anticipates without flinching the moment wherein “death 
is engulfed in victory” (Cor. 1 .15.54). 

Despite being close to Nietzsche from this point of view, Paul is ob¬ 

viously not the dialectician he is sometimes taken to be. It is not a ques¬ 
tion of denying death by preserving it, but of engulfing it, abolishing it. 

The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 73 

Neither is Paul, like the early Heidegger, a proponent of being-toward- 
death and finitude. In the divided subject, the part of being-toward-death 
is that which still says no,” that which does not want to let itself be car¬ 
ried away by the exceptional “but” of grace, of the event, of life. 

Ultimately, for Paul, the Christ-event is nothing but resurrection. It 
eradicates negativity, and if, as we have already said, death is required for 
the construction of its site, it remains an affirmative operation that is ir¬ 
reducible to death itself. 

Christ has been pulled ek nekron, out from the dead. This extrac¬ 
tion fiom the mortal site establishes a point wherein death loses its power. 
Extraction, subtraction, but not negation: “But if we have died with 
Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that 
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer 
has dominion over him” (Rom. 6.8-9). 

Death, as the Sons human site, is nothing but powerlessness when 
subjected to the evental trial of resurrection. Resurrection suddenly 
comes foith out from the power of death, not through its negation. 

One could say: the Christ-event, the fact of there having been this 
paiticular son, out from the power of death, retroactively identifies death 
as a path, a dimension of the subject, and not a state of a ffairs J Death is 
not a destiny but a choice, as is shown by the fact that we can be offered, 
through the subtraction of death, the choice of life. And thus, strictly 
speaking, there is no being-toward-death; there is only ever a path-of- 
death entering into the divided composition of every subject. 

If resurrection is affirmative subtraction from the path of death, we 
have to understand why, in Pauls eyes, this—radically singular—event 
provides the basis for a universalism. What is it in this resurrection, this 
out from the dead, that has the power to suspend differences? Why, if 

a man is resurrected, does it follow that there is neither Greek nor Jew, 

neither male nor female, neither slave nor free man? 

The resurrected is what filiates us and includes itself in the generic 
dimension of the son. It is essential to remember that for Paul, Christ is 
not identical with God, that no Trinitarian or substantialist theology up¬ 
holds his preaching. Wholly faithful to the pure event, Paul restricts him¬ 
self to the metaphor of the sending of the son. ” As a result, for Paul, it is 
not the infinite that died on the cross. Certainly, the construction of the 

74 The Antidialectic of Death and Resurrection 

evental site requires that the son who was sent to us, terminating the 
abyss of transcendence, be immanent to the path of the flesh, of death, to 
all the dimensions of the human subject. In no way does this entail that 
Christ is the incarnation of a God, or that he must be thought of as the 
becoming-finite of the infinite. Paul’s thought dissolves incarnation in res- 
urrection . 

However, although resurrection is not the “Calvary of the Ab¬ 
solute,” although it mobilizes no dialectic of the incarnation of Spirit, it 
is nevertheless true that it suspends differences for the benefit of a radical 
universality, and that the event is addressed to all without exception, or 
definitively divides every subj^J. This is precisely what, in terms of the 
Roman world, constitutes a staggering innovation. It can be illuminated 
only by scrutinizing the names of death and the names of life. First 
among the names of death, however, is Law. 

Paul Against the Law 

Two statements seem jointly to concentrate, in a perilous 
metonymy, Pauls teaching: 

i. Faith is what saves us, not works. 

• We are no longer under the rule of law, but of grace. 

There would thus seem to be four concepts coordinating a subjects fun¬ 
damental choices: pistis (faith) and ergon (work); kharis (grace) and nomos 
(law). The subjective path of the flesh ( sarx ), whose real is death, coordi¬ 

nates the pairing of law and works. While the path of the spirit ( pneuma ), 
whose real is life, coordinates that of grace and faith. Between the two lies 
the new real object, the evental given, traversing “the redemption which 
is in Christ Jesus,” passing through diet tes apolutrdseds tes en Khristdi Iesou 
(Rom. 3.24). 

But why is it necessary to reject law onto the side of death? Because 
considered in its particularity, that of the works it prescribes, the law 

blocks the subjectivation of grace’s universal address as pure conviction, 
or faith. The law “objectifies” salvation and forbids one from relating it to 

the gratuitousness of the Christ-event. In Romans 3.27-30, Paul clearly 
indicates what is at issue, which is the essential link between event and 
universality when it is a question of the One, or more simply of one truth: 

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the 
principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is 

76 Paul Against the Law 

justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of the Jews only? 
Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he 
will justify the circumcised on the grounds of their faith and the uncircumcised 
through their faith. 

The fundamental question is that of knowing precisely what it 
means for there to be a single God. What does the “mono” in “monothe¬ 

ism” mean? Here Paul confronts—but also renews the terms of—the for¬ 
midable question of the (One. His genuinely revolutionary conviction is 
that the sign of the One is the for all > ” or the *without exception. ” That 
there is but a single God must be understood not as a philosophical spec¬ 
ulation concerning substance or the supreme being, but on the basis of a 
structure of address. The One is that which inscribes no difference in the 
subjects to which it addresses itself. The One is only insofar as it is for all: 

such is the maxim of universality when it has its root in the event. 
Monotheism can be understood only by taking into consideration the 
whole of humanity. Unless addressed to all, the One crumbles and disap¬ 

But, for Paul, the law always designates a particularity, hence a dif¬ 
ference. It is not possible for it to be an operation of the One, because it 
addresses its fallacious “One” only to those who acknowledge and prac¬ 
tice the injunctions it specifies. 

The ontological structure underlying this conviction (though Paul 
has no interest whatsoever in ontology) is that no evental One can be the 
One of a particularity. The universal is the only possible correlate for the 

One. The general apparatus of a truth contains the One (divine tran¬ 
scendence, monotheism, according to the Pauline fable), the universal 
(the whole of humanity, both circumcised and uncircumcised), and the 
singular (the Christ-event). The particular, which pertains to opinion, 
custom, law, cannot be inscribed in it. 

What can measure up to the universality of an address? Not legal- 

ity, in any case. The law is always predicativ^, particular, and partial. 
Paul is perfectly aware of the laws unfailingly “statist” character. By “sta¬ 
tist” I mean that which enumerates, names, and controls the parts of a 
situation. If a truth is to surge forth eventally, it must be nondenumer- 
able, impredicable, uncontrollable. This is precisely what Paul calls 
grace: that which occurs without being couched in any predicate, that 

Paul Against the Law 77 

which is translegal, that which happens to everyone without an assigna¬ 
ble reason. Grace is the opposite of law insofar as it is what comes with- 
out being due . 

This is a profound insight of Pauls, which, through its universal 
and illegal understanding of the One, undoes every particular or com¬ 
munitarian incorporation of the subject, as well as every juridical or con¬ 
tractual approach to its constitutive division. That which founds a subject 
cannot be what is due to it. For this foundation‘binds itself to that which 
is declared in a radical contingency. If one understands mans humanity 
in terms of his subjective capacity, there is, strictly speaking, nothing 
whatsoever like a “right” of man. 

The polemic against the “what is due,” against the logic of right 
and duty, lies at the heart of the Pauline refusal of works and law: “To one 
who works, his wages are n ot reckoned as a grace but as his due” (Rom. 
4.4). But for Paul, nothing is due. The salvation of the subject cannot 
take the form of a reward or wage. The subjectivity of faith is unwaged 
(which, in the final analysis, entitles us to call it communist). It pertains 
to the granting of a gift, kharisma. Every subject is initiated on the basis 
of a charisma; every subject is charismatic. Since the subjectivating point 
is the declaration of the event, rather than the work that demands a wage 
or reward, the declaring subject exists according to the charisma proper 
to him. Every subjectivity confronts its division within the element of an 
essential gratuitousness proper to its purpose. The redemptive operation 
consists in the occurrence of a charisma. 

I heie is in Paul a fundamental link between universalism and 
charisma, between the Ones universal power of address, and the absolute 
gratuitousness of militantism. Thus, in Romans 3.22-24, he will state: 
For there is no distinction [ diastole , which means “difference”], since all 
have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, by his grace they are justi¬ 
fied as a gift \ddrean], through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” 

Dorean is a powerful word; it means “as a pure gift,” “without 
cause, and even in vain. There is for Paul an essential link between the 
foi all of the universal and the without cause.” There is an address for 
all only according to that which is without cause. Only what is absolutely 
gratuitous can be addressed to all. Only charisma and grace measure up 
to a universal problem. 

78 Paul Against the Law 

The subject constituted by charisma through the gratuitous prac¬ 

tice of the universal address necessarily maintains that there are no differ¬ 
ences. Only what is charismatic, thus absolutely without cause, possesses 
this power of being in excess of the law, of collapsing established differ¬ 

This is the root of the famous Pauline theme concerning the super¬ 
abundance of grace. The law governs a predicative, worldly multiplicity, 
granting to each part of the whole its due. Evental grace governs a multi¬ 
plicity in excess of itself, one that is indescribable, superabundant relative 
to itself as well as with respect to the fixed distributions of the law. 

The profound ontological thesis here is that universalism supposes 

one be able to think the multiple not as a part, but as in excess of itself, 

as that which is out of place, as a nomadism of gratuitousness. If by “sin” 
one understands the subjective exercise of death as path of existence, and 
hence the legal cult of particularity, one thereby understands that what is 
maintained of the event (which is to say, a truth, whatever it may be) is 
always in impredicable excess of everything circumscribed by “sin.” This 

is precisely what is said by the famous text of Romans 5.20-21: 

Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded 
all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through 
righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

The two subjective paths, death and life, whose nonrelation constitutes 

the divided subject, are also two types of multiplicity: 

• The particularizing multiplicity, the one accompanied by its own 
limit, marked by the predicate of its limit. The law is its cipher or 


• The multiplicity that, exceeding itself, upholds universality. Its be¬ 
ing in excess of itself precludes its being represented as a totality. Su¬ 
perabundance cannot be assigned to any Whole. That is precisely 
why it legitimates the destitution of difference, a destitution that is 
the very process of excess. 

What is called “grace” is the capacity of a postevental multiplicity to 
exceed its own limit, a limit that has a commandment of the law as its 
dead cipher. The opposition grace/law encompasses two doctrines of the 

Paul Against the Law 79 

It remains to be understood why the subjective theme associated 
with law is that of sin. Here we face an extremely complex intrigue. Nev¬ 
ertheless, what entails that “law” is henceforth one of the names of death 
in subjective composition. 

In fact, what is at issue is desire ( epithumia ), which there is no rea¬ 
son to translate here by a “concupiscence” that has far too strong a whiff 
of the confessional about it. Before proceeding onto the subjects “new 
life, the most profound grasp of the connections between desire, law, 
death, and life is necessary. 

Paul’s fundamental thesis is that the law, and only the law, endows 
desire with an autonomy sufficient for the subject of this desire, from the 
perspective of that autonomy, to come to occupy the place of the dead. 

The law is what gives life to desire. But in so doing, it constrains the 
subject so that he wants to follow only the path of death. 

What is sin exactly? It is not desire as such, for if it were one would 
not undeistand its link to the law and death. Sin is the life of desire as au¬ 
tonomy, as automatism. The law is required in order to unleash the auto¬ 
matic life of desire, the automatism of repetition. For only the law fixes 
the object of desire, binding desire to it regardless of the subjects “will.” 
It is this objectal automatism of desire, inconceivable without the law, 
that assigns the subject to the carnal path of death. 

Clearly, what is at issue here is nothing less than the problem of the 
unconscious (Paul calls it the involuntary, what I do not want, ho ou the- 
lo). The life of desire fixed and unleashed by the law is that which, de- 
centered fiom the subject, accomplishes itself as unconscious automa¬ 
tism, with respect to which the involuntary subject is capable only of 
inventing death. 

1 he law is what, by designating its object, delivers desire to its 
repetitive autonomy. Desire thereby attains its automatism in the form of 
a transgression. How are we to understand “transgression”? There is trans¬ 
gression when what is prohibited—which is to say, negatively named by 

the ' through itself in the site 

and place of the subject. Paul condenses this intersecting of the impera¬ 
tive, desire, and subjective death, thus: “For sin, finding opportunity in 
the commandment, seduced me and by it killed me” (Rom. 7.11). 

Difficult to imagine a more anti-Kantian disposition than the one 

8o Paul Against the Law 

which, by calling the autonomy of desire “sin” when its object is fixed by 
the laws commandment, designates the effect of the latter as the subjects 
coming to occupy the place of the dead. 

Up to now we have been anticipating. But everything is spelled out 
in what is perhaps Pauls most famous, yet also most intricate text, Ro¬ 
mans 7.7-23, a text I will cite in its entirety before carrying on with its 

What then shall we say? That the Law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been 
for the Law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to 
covet if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding opportunity 
in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the 
Law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the Law, but when the command¬ 
ment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment that promised life 
proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, 
seduced me and by it killed me. So the Law is holy, and the commandment is 
holy and just and good. 

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, 
working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to 
be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 
We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not un¬ 
derstand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the veiy thing I 
hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, I agree that the Law is good. So then it is 
no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing 
good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot 
do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells 
in me. 

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 
For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members an¬ 
other law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of 
sin that dwells in my members. 

All of Pauls thinking here points toward a theory of the subjective 

unconscious, structured through the opposition life/death. 1 he laws pro¬ 
hibition is that through which the desire of the object can realize itself 
“involuntarily,” unconsciously—which is to say, as life of sin. As a result 
of which the subject, de-centered from this desire, crosses over to the side 
of death. 

Paul Against the Law 81 

What matters to Paul is that this experience (he is manifestly speak¬ 
ing about himself, almost in the style of Augustine’s Confessions) causes to 
appear, under condition of the law, a singular disposition, wherein, if the 
subject is on the side of death, life is on the side of sin. 

If the subject is to swing over into another disposition, one wherein 
he would be on the side of life, and sin—that is to say, the automatism of 
repetition—would occupy the place of the dead, it is necessary to break 

with the law. Such is Paul’s implacable conclusion. 

How is the subject of a universal truth structured, once his division 

is no longer sustained by law? Resurrection summons the subject to iden¬ 
tify himself as such according to the name of faith ( pistis ). Th is means: in¬ 
dependently of the results, or prescribed forms, that will be called works. 
In the guise of the event, the subject is subjectivation. The word pistis 
(faith, or conviction) designates precisely this point: the absence of any 
gap between subject and subjectivation. In this absence of a gap, which 
constantly activates the subject in the service of truth, forbidding him 
rest, the One-truth proceeds in the direction of all. 

But perhaps we can, at this particular juncture, recapitulating and 
generalizing the figures occasioned in Paul by the virulence of the fable, 
arrange what is imbued with a materialist import by means of two theo¬ 
rems and thus delineate our materialism of grace. 

Theorem 1 . The One is only insofar as it is for all, and follows not 

from the law, but from the event. 

It is in the retroaction of the event that the universality of a truth is 
constituted. The law is inappropriate to the “for all” because it is always 
the statist law, the law that controls parts, the particular law. The One is 
only in default of the law. Universality is organically bound to the con¬ 
tingency of what happens to us, which is the senseless superabundance of 

Theorem 2 . It is the event alone, as illegal contingency, which 
causes a multiplicity in excess of itself to come forth and thus allows 
for the possibility of overstepping finitude. The subjective corollary, 
perfectly established by Paul, is that every law is the cipher of a fini¬ 
tude. This is precisely what entails that it bind itself to the path of 

82 Paul Against the Law 

the flesh and, ultimately, death. That which prohibits monotheism 
by particularizing its address, also prohibits the infinite. 

But let us, for a moment more, pursue the labyrinth of the epistle 
to the Romans. 

We have already pointed it out in the text: without the law, there is 

no liberated, autonomous, automatic desire. There is an indistinct, undi¬ 
vided life, perhaps something like Adamic life, before the fall, before the 
law. Paul is invoking a kind of infancy when he says: “Once I was alive 
apart from the Law.” For this “life” is not the one that constitutes the en¬ 
tire real that belongs to the path of the spirit in the divided subject. 
Rather, it is a life that unseparates the two paths, the life of a subject who 

is supposed as full, or undivided. If one supposes that there is this “be¬ 

fore” of the law, one supposes an innocent subject, one who has not even 
invented death. Or rather, death is on the side of desire: “Apart from the 
law sin lies dead.” This means: apart from the law, there is no living au¬ 
tonomy of desire. In the indistinct subject, desire remains an empty, in¬ 
active category. That which will later be the path of death, or that which 
makes the subject swing over into the place of the dead, is not living. “Be¬ 
fore the law,” the path of death is dead. But by the same token, this in¬ 
nocent life remains foreign to the question of salvation. 

“With the law,” the subject has definitively exited from unity, from 

innocence. His putative indistinction can no longer be maintained. De¬ 

sire, whose object is designated by the law, finds itself determined—au- 
tonomized—as transgressive desire. With the law, desire regains life; it be¬ 
comes a full, active category. There is a constitution of the carnal path 
thanks to the objectal multiplicity that the law carves out through prohi¬ 
bition and nomination. Sin appears as the automation of desire. 

But the path of sin is that of death. Consequently, it becomes pos¬ 
sible to say that (and this lies at the heart of Pauls discourse) with the law, 
the path of death, which was itself dead, becomes alive once more . The law 

gives life to death, and the subject as life according to the spirit falls onto 

the side of death. The law distributes life on the side of the path of death, 

and death on the side of the path of life. 

The death of life is the Self (in the position of the dead). The life of 
death is sin. 

Note the powerful paradox in this disjunction between (dead) Self 

Paul Against the Law 83 

and (living) sin. It signifies that it is never I who sin, it is sin that sins in 

me: “Sin took hold of me through the commandment and by it killed 
me.” And “It is no longer I who act, but the sin that inhabits me.” Sin as 
such does not interest Paul, who is everything except a moralist. What 
counts is its subjective position, its genealogy. Sin is the life of death. It is 
that of which the law, and the law alone, is capable. The price paid for 
this is that life occupies the place of the dead under the auspices of the 

The extreme tension running through this text comes from the fact 
that Paul is striving to articulate a de-centering of the subject, a particu¬ 

larly contorted form of its division. Since the subject of life is in the place 
of death and vice versa, it follows that knowledge and will, on the one 
hand, agency and action, on the other, are entirely disconnected. This is 
the empirically verifiable essence of existence according to the law. More¬ 

over, a parallel can be drawn between this de-centering and the Lacanian 
interpretation of the cogito (there where I think, I am not, and there 
where I am, I do not think). 

Let us generalize a little. For Paul, the man of the law is one in 
whom doing is separated from thinking. Such is the consequence of se¬ 
duction by commandment. This figure of the subject, wherein the divi¬ 
sion lies between the dead Self and the involuntary automation of living 
desire, is, for thought, a figure of powerlessness. Basically, sin is not so 
much a fault as living thoughts inability to prescribe action. Under the 
effect of the law, thought disintegrates into powerlessness and endless 
cogitation, because the subject (the dead Self) is disconnected from a 
limitless power: that of desires living automation. 

Accordingly, we will posit that: 

Theorem 3 . The law is what constitutes the subject as powerlessness 

of thought. 

But the law consists above all in the letters force of commandment. The 
terrible formula in Corinthians II.3.6 is well known: to gramma apokten- 
nei, to depneuma zoopoiel , “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” It is 
followed by a mention of “the dispensation of death, carved in letters on 
stone” (Cor. II.3.7). The letter mortifies the subject insofar as it separates 
his thought from all power. 

84 Paul Against the Law 

We shall define “salvation” (Paul says: justified life, or justification) 
thus: that thought can be unseparated from doing and power. There is 
salvation when the divided figure of the subject maintains thought in the 

power of doing. This is what, for my part, I call a truth procedure. 

Accordingly, we have: 

Th eo rem 4 . There is no letter of salvation, or literal form for a truth 


This means that there can be a letter only of automatism, of calcu¬ 
lation. The corollary follows: there is calculation only of the letter. There 
is a reckoning only of death. Every letter is blind and operates blindly. 

When the subject is under the letter, or literal, he presents himself 
as a disconnected correlation between an automatism of doing and a 
powerlessness of thought. 

If one defines “salvation” as the ruin of this disjunction, it is clear 
that it will depend on a lawless eruption, unchaining the point of power¬ 
lessness from automatism. 

It is important to understand and recapitulate the antidialectic of 
salvation and sin. Salvation is the unchaining of the subjective figure 
whose name is sin. We have seen, in effect, that sin is a subjective struc¬ 
ture, and not an evil act. Sin is nothing but the permutation of the places 
of life and death under the effect of the law, which is precisely why Paul, 
dispensing with the need for a sophisticated doctrine of original sin, can 
simply say: we are in sin. When salvation unblocks the subjective mech¬ 
anism of sin, it becomes apparent that this unchaining consists in a delit- 
eralization of the subject. 

This deliteralization is conceivable only if one admits that one of 
the paths of the divided subject is transliteral. ^ as we are “un der 

the law,” this path remains dead (it is in the posture of the Self). Resur¬ 
rection alone allows it to become active once more. The extrication of 
death and life, in the case where life occupied the position of deaths re¬ 
mainder, becomes perceptible solely on the basis of the excess of grace, 
thus, of a pure act. 

“Grace” means that thought cannot wholly account for the brutal 
starting over on the path of life in the subject, which is to say, for the re¬ 
discovered conjunction between thinking and doing. Thought can be 

Paul Against the Law 8 5 

raised up from its powerlessness only through something that exceeds the 
order of thought. “Grace” names the event as condition for an active 
thought. The condition is itself inevitably in excess of what it conditions, 
which is to say that grace is partly subtracted from the thought that it 
gives life to. Or, as Mallarme—that Paul of the modern poem—will put 
it: it is certain that every thought emits a dice-throw, but it is just as cer¬ 
tain that it will be unable to ultimately think the chance that has thus en¬ 
gendered it. 

For Paul, the figure of the chiasmus death/life, coordinated by the 
law, can be raised up, which is to say, permutated once again, only 
through an implacable operation bearing on death and life, and this op¬ 
eration is resurrection. Only a resurrection redistributes death and life to 
their places, by showing that life does not necessarily occupy the place of 

the dead. 

Love as Universal Power 

It has been established that no morality— if one understands by 
“morality” practical obedience to a law—can justify the existence of a 
subject: “A man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in 
Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.i6).iWhat is more, the Christ-event is essentially the 
abolition of the law, which was nothing but the empire of death: ‘Christ 
redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3.13). Just as, under the law, 
the subject, de-centered from the automatic life of desire, occupied the 
place of the dead, and sin (or unconscious desire) enjoyed an autono¬ 
mous life in him, similarly, having been sprung from death by resurrec¬ 
tion, the subject participates in a new life, whose name is Christ. Christ s 
resurrection is just as much our resurrection, shattering that death 
wherein the subject, under the law, had exiled himself in the closed form 

of the Self: “If I live, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in 
me” (Gal. 2.20). By the same token, if one persists in supposing that 
truth and justice can be obtained by observing legal commandments, one 
must return toward death, assert that no grace has been accorded us in 
existence, and deny the Resurrection: “I do not nullify the grace of God; 
for if justification [ dikaiosune ] were through the law, then Christ died to 
no purpose” (Gal. 2.21). 

Is this to say that the subject who binds himself to Christian dis¬ 
course is absolutely lawless! In the passage of the epistle to the Romans 

Love as Universal Power 87 

that we examined at length, various clues point toward the opposite, 
obliging us to raise the extraordinarily difficult question concerning the 
existence of a transliteral law, a law of the spirit . 

For at the very moment in which he sets out to depose the law and 

elucidate its relation to unconscious avidity, Paul points out that “the law 
is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good [he entole hagia 
kai dikaia kai agathe ] (Rom. 7.12). What is more, apparently overturn¬ 
ing at a stroke all of the foregoing dialectic, he asserts that “the law is spir¬ 
itual [ho nomospneumatiko^ (Rom. 7.14). 

Thus, it seems necessary to distinguish between a legalizing subjec- 
tivation, which is a power of death, and a law raised up by faith, which 
belongs to the spirit and to life. 

Our task consists in thinking the apparent contradiction between 
two statements: 

t is the end of the law [teles 


Khristos ]” (Rom. 10.4). 

Love is the fulfilling of the law [pleroma nomou he agapef 
(Rom. 13.10). 

Under the condition of faith, of a declared conviction, love names 
a nonliteral law, one that gives to the faithful subject his consistency, and 
effectuates the postevental truth in the world. 

1 his, from my point of view, is a thesis endowed with a general rel¬ 
evance. The trajectory of a truth, which institutes its subject as detached 
from the statist laws of the situation, is nonetheless consistent according 
to another law. the one that, addressing the truth to everyone, universal¬ 
izes the subject. 



7 orem 5 . A subject turns the universal address of the truth wh 
•rocedure he maintains into a nonliteral law. 

To this universal address that faith, or pure subjectivation, does not con¬ 
stitute on its own Paul gives the name “love,” agape— translated for a 
long time as charity, a term that no longer means much to us. 

Its principle is this: when the subject as thought accords with the 
grace of the event—this is subjectivation (faith, conviction)—he, who 
was dea|^^pis to the pla^^^^ He regains those attributes of 
power that had fallen onto the side of the law and whose subjective fig- 

88 Love as Universal Power 

ure was sin. He rediscovers the living unity of thinking and doing. This 
recovery turns life itself into a universal law. Law returns as life’s articu¬ 
lation for everyone, path of faith, law beyond law. This is what Paul calls 

We already know that faith cannot be confused with mere private 

convictioih,! which, as we have seen, when left to itself, coordinates the 
fourth discourse, that of unutterable utterances, the enclosure of the mys¬ 
tical subject, rather than Christian discourse. Genuine subjectivation has 
as its material evidence the public declaration of the event by its name, 
which is “resurrection.” It is of the essence of faith to publicly declare it¬ 
self. Truth is either militant or is not. Citing Deuteronomy, Paul reminds 
us that “The word is near you, on your lips, and in your heart” (Rom. 
10.8). And certainly, private conviction, that of the heart, is required, but 
only the public confession of faith installs the subject in the perspective 
of salvation. It is not the heart that saves, but the lips: 

It is the word of faith we preach. If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 
For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips 
and so is saved (Rom. 10.9-10). 

The real of faith is an effective declaration,'which, with the word 
“resurrection,” utters that life and death are not ineluctably distributed as 
they are in the “old man.” Faith publicly acknowledges that the subjective 
apparatus commanded by the law is not the only possible one. But it be¬ 
comes apparent that faith, confessing the resurrection of one man, merely 
declares a possibility tot everyone. That a new assemblage of life and death 
is possible is borne out by resurrection, and this is what must first be de¬ 
clared. But this conviction leaves the universalization of the “new man” 
in suspense and says nothing as to the content of the reconciliation be¬ 
tween living thought and action. Faith says: We can escape powerlessness 
and rediscover that from which the law separated us. Faith prescribes a 
new possibility, one that, although real in Christ, is not, as yet, in effect 
for everyone. 

It us incumbent upon love to become law so that truth’s posteven- 
tal universality can continuously inscribe itself in the world, rallying sub¬ 
jects to the path of life. Faith is the declared thought of a possible power 

Love as Universal Power 89 

of thought. It is not yet this power as such. As Paul forcefully puts it, pis- 
tis di’agapes energoumene , “faith works only through love” (Gal. 5.6). 

It is from this point of view that, for the Christian subject, love un¬ 
derwrites the return of a law that, although nonliteral, nonetheless func¬ 
tions as principle and consistency for the subjective energy initiated by 
the declaration of faith. For the new man, love is fulfillment of the break 
that he accomplishes with the law; it is law of the break with law, law of 
the truth of law. Conceived in this way, the law of love can even be sup¬ 
ported by recollecting the content of the old law (Paul never misses an 
opportunity for an extension of political alliances), a content that, 
thiough love, is reduced to a single maxim that must not be carved onto 
stone, on pain of relapsing into death, because it is entirely subordinated 
to the subjectivation by faith; 

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor 
has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You 
shall not kill, \ou shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other command¬ 
ment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as your¬ 
self. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 
(Rom. t3.8-io) 

This passage expresses Paul’s twofold attempt: 

• To reduce the multiplicity of legal prescriptions, because it is to 
this multiplicity of commandment that desire’s moribund auton¬ 
omy relates in the form of objects. A single, affirmative, and nonob- 
jectal maxim is required. One that will not arouse the infinity of de¬ 
sire through the transgression of the prohibition. 

• To make the maxim such that it will require faith in order to be 

The “love your neig||j@r as yourself” satisfies both conditions 
(and, in addition, its injunction can be found in the Old Testament, 
which is all to the good). This single imperative envelops no prohibition; 
it is pure affirmation. And it requires faith, because prior to the Resurrec¬ 
tion, the subject, having been given up to death, has no good reason to love 

Paul is in no way a theoretician of oblatory love, through which 

90 Love as Universal Power 

one would forget oneself in devotion to the Other. This false love, which 

claims that the subject annihilates himself in a direct relation to the tran¬ 

scendence of the Other, is nothing more than narcissistic pretension. It 
falls under the fourth discourse, that of the private, unspeakable word. 

Paul knows full well that genuine love exists only to the extent that one 
first be capable of loving oneself. But this relation of love the subject 
bears to himself is never anything but love of that living truth that insti¬ 
tutes the subject who declares it. Thus, love is under the authority of the 
event and its subjectivation in faith, since only the event allows the sub¬ 
ject to be something other than a dead Self, which it is impossible to 

Thus, the new faith consists in deploying the power of self-love in 

the direction of others, addressing it to everyone, in a way made possible 
by subjectivation (conviction). Love is precisely what faith is capable of 
I call this universal power of subjectivation an evental fidelity, and 

it is correct to say that fidelity is the law of a truth. In Pauls thought, love 
is precisely fidelity to the Christ-event, in accordance with a power that 
addresses the love of self universally. Love is what makes of thought a 
power, which is why love alone, and not faith, bears the force of salvation. 
What we have here is: 

Theorem 6. What grants power to a truth, and determines subjec¬ 
tive fidelity, is the universal address of the relation to self instituted 
by the event, and not this relation itself. 

This could be called the theorem of the militant. No truth is ever solitary, 
or particular. 

To understand the Pauline version of the theorem of the militant, it 
is useful to proceed on the basis of two apparently contradictory state¬ 

Paul seems to assign salvation exclusively to faith. This is even what 
his thought is often reduced to. For instance (but the theme recurs 
throughout the epistles): 

Yet knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in 
Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by 
faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no 
one be justified. (Gal. 2.16) 

Love as Universal Power 91 

But Paul, with equal energy, assigns salvation to love alone, even going so 
far as to maintain that faith without love is no more than hollow subjec¬ 
tivism. Thus: 

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong 
or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mys¬ 
teries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but 
have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to 
be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (Cor. 1 .13.1-3) 

And when it comes to classifying the three major subjective opera¬ 

tions proper to the new man— faith,|love, and charity, or rather, convic¬ 
tion, certainty, and love — it is to love, without hesitation, that Paul as¬ 
signs pride of place: “These three abide, faith, hope, love; but the greatest 
of these is love” (Cor. 1 .13.13). 

On the one hand, the evental declaration founds the subject; on the 
other, without love, without fidelity, that declaration is useless. Let us say 
that a subjectivation that does not discover the resource of power proper 
to its universal address misses the truth for whose sudden emergence it 
seemed to be the sole witness. 

In the case of the preeminence of love, which alone effectuates the 
unity of thought and action in the world, it is necessary to pay careful at¬ 
tention to Pauls lexicon, which is always extremely precise. When it is a 
question of subjectivation through faith, Paul speaks not of salvation 
(.soteria :), but of justification ( dikaioma ). It is true that a man is “justified 
by faith” (Rom. 3.28), but it is no less true that he is saved only by love. 

We should recall in passing that if “justification” retains, at its root, the 
legal motif of justice, salvation means, quite simply, “liberation.” Thus, 
subjectivation creates, according to the possibility indicated by the resur¬ 
rection of a single man, the just space of a liberation; but only love, which 
implies the universality of address, effectuates this liberation. Love alone 
is the life of truth, the pleasure of truth. As Paul says: “Love . . . rejoices 
in the truth \he agape . . . sunkairei tei aletheiai ]” (Cor. 1 .13.6). 

Paul has the intuition that every subject is the articulation of a sub¬ 
jectivation and a consistency. This also means there is no instantaneous 
salvation; grace itself is no more than the indication of a possibility. The 
subject has to be given in his labor, and not only in his sudden emer- 


Love as Universal Power 



“Love” is the name of that labor. Truth for Paul is never any 

but “faith working through love” (Gal. 5.6). 

This is the same as saying that the impetus of a truth, what makes 
it exist in the world, is identical to its universality, whose subjective form, 
under the Pauline name of love, consists in its tirelessly addressing itself 
to all the others, Greeks and Jews, men and women, free men and slaves. 
Whence the consequence that “we have no power against the truth [ou 
dunametha kata tes alethem ], but only for the truth [huper tes aletheias ]” 
(Cor. II.13.8). 

Theorem 7 The subjective process of a truth is one and the same 

thing as the love of that truth. And the militant real of that love is 

the universal address of what constitutes it. The materiality of uni- 

versalism is the militant dimension of every truth. 


Paul claims that “These three abide, faith [pistis], hope [elpis], love 

[agape, charity]” (Cor. I.13.13). We have clarified the subjective correla¬ 
tion between faith and love. What about hope? 

With Paul and his successors, hope is described as pertaining to jus¬ 

tice. Faith allows one to have hope in justice. Thus, in Romans 10.10: 
“For man believes with his heart and so obtains justice.” 

But what kind of justice are we talking about? Does Paul mean that 

the hope in justice is the hope in a judgment, the Last Judgment? That 

would be hope in an event to come, one that would separate the con¬ 
demned from the saved. Justice would be done, and it is in this final tri¬ 
bunal of truth that hope would put its trust. 

Against this classic judicial eschatology, Paul seems instead to char¬ 
acterize hope as a simple imperative of continuation, a principle of tenac¬ 
ity, of obstinacy. In Thessalonians I, faith is compared to striving ( ergon ), 
and love to grueling work, to the laborious, the troublesome. Plope, for 
its part, pertains to endurance, to perseverance, to patience; it is the sub¬ 
jectivity proper to the continuation of the subjective process. 

Faith would be the opening to the true; love, the universalizing ef¬ 
fectiveness of its trajectory; hope, lastly, a maxim enjoining us to perse¬ 
vere in this trajectory. 

How is the idea of judgment, of justice, finally rendered, connected 

94 Hope 

to that of perseverance, to that of the imperative “You must go on”? If 
perseverance is privileged, one obtains a subjective figure that is entirely 
disinterested, except for its being a coworker for a truth. Both tendencies 
have a long history whose political resonances are still being felt. The 
question is always one of knowing to what one ascribes the militant en¬ 
ergy of an anonymous subject. 

If final retribution is privileged, the subject is aligned once more 
with the object. Alternatively, if hope is the principle of perseverance, one 
remains within the realm of the purely subjective. Christianity has ad¬ 
vanced under cover of this tension, almost invariably privileging retribu¬ 
tion, which is more popular in the eyes of the Church, just as ordinary 
syndicalism points to peoples protests the better to be wary of their “un¬ 
realistic” political enthusiasms. 

The problem is that of knowing what relation hope has to power. 
Does it reinforce power from outside , according to what one hopes for?|Is 
there an event to come that will reward us for our painstaking declara¬ 
tion of the event that constitutes us? Hope then becomes an evental con¬ 
nection; it deploys the subject in the interval between two events, and 
the subject relies on his hope in the second in order to sustain his faith in 
the first. 

The classic objectivating doctrine says that the final Judgment will 
legitimate believers by punishing unbelievers. Justice then becomes a di¬ 
viding up, as seen in those great paintings by Tintoretto or Michelangelo, 
visually luxuriating in the contrast between the luminous ascension of the 
rewarded militants and the dark fall of the stricken evildoers. 

Hell has always enjoyed greater artistic and public success than 
heaven, because what the subject requires, according to this version of 
hope, is the idea that the evildoer will be punished. The legitimation of 
faith and love through hope is then entirely negative. Hope is traversed 
by! the hatred of others, by resentment. But thus conceived, hope seems 
somewhat incompatible with that reconciliation of thought and power in 
the universal that Paul names love. 

In fact, one does not find the judicial, objective conception of hope 
in Paul. Certainly, because he is a violent, grudge-bearing man (for how 
could the path of death not persist in dividing the subject?), there are oc¬ 
casions in which he lets it be understood that the evildoers—which is to 

Hope 95 

say, primarily his political opponents in the construction of Christian 
cells—will not be particularly well treated. Similarly, like any Jew living 
in the early days of the empire, he occasionally allows himself to imagine 
that our days are numbered, that the end of the world will soon be upon 
us: “Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you 
to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first 
believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the 
works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13.11). But there 
are very few concessions to this aggressive, apocalyptic atmosphere in 
Paul. Still less does he tether hope to the satisfaction that feeds on the 
punishment of the wicked. 

For universalism is Pauls passior),(and it is not by chance that he 
was named the “apostle of the nations.” His clearest conviction is that the 
evental figure of the Resurrection exceeds its real, contingent site, which 
is the community of believers such as it exists at the moment. The work 
of love is still before us; the empire is vast. This man, or this people, who 
are to all appearances impious and ignorant, must primarily be seen as 
those to whom the militant must bring the Good News. Paul’s universal¬ 
ism will not allow the content of hope to be a privilege accorded to the 
faithful who happen to be living now. It is inappropriate to make distrib¬ 
utive justice the referent for hope. 

Ultimately, I in Paul’s eyes, hope is not hope in an objective victory. 
On the contrary, it is subjective victory that produces hope. We must try 
to understand this difficult text, whose implications are far-reaching for 
whoever is the militant of a truth: “And we rejoice in our hope of sharing 
the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing 
that suffering produces patience, and patience produces enduring fidelity, 
and enduring fidelity produces hope, and hope does not disappoint” 
(Rom. 5.2). 

The subjective dimension named “hope” is the ordeal that has been 
overcome, not that in the name of which it has been overcome. Hope is 
“enduring fidelity,” tenacity of love through the ordeal, and in no way vi¬ 
sion of a reward or punishment. Hope is the subjectivity of a victorious fi¬ 
delity, fidelity to fidelity, and not the representation of its future outcome. 

Hope indicates the real of fidelity in the ordeal of its exercise, here 
and now. This is how the enigmatic expression “hope does not disap- 

9 6 Hope 

point” should be understood. We will compare it to the statement by La¬ 
can, for whom “anxiety is what does not disappoint,” precisely on ac¬ 
count of its being charged with the real, of the excess of the real from 
which it results. One could say that hope is not the imaginary of an ideal 
justice dispensed at last, but what accompanies the patience of truth, or 
the practical universality of love, through the ordeal of the real. 

If Paul—quite apart from his general opposition to the idea that 
faith has a “wage”—cannot subordinate hope to the imaginary of a retri¬ 
bution, it is because resurrection has no meaning independently of the 
universal character of its operation. As soon as it is a question of contin¬ 
gency and grace, all fixing of divisions or distributions is forbidden: “A 
single act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men” (Rom. 
5.18). The “all men” returns without exception: “For as in Adam all die, 
so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (Cor. 1 .15.22). There is no place 
here for vengeance and resentment. Hell, the roasting spit of enemies, 
holds no interest for Paul. 

Nonetheless, one enemy is identifiable, and its name is death. But it 
is a generic name, one that is applicable to a path of thought. Of this en¬ 
emy, Paul, on rare occasions, speaks in the future tense: “The last enemy 
who will be destroyed is death” (Cor. 1 .15.26). The justice that is in ques¬ 
tion in hope can doubtless be described as the death of death. But it is a 
question of undertaking the defeat of the subjective figure of death as of 
now. Justice is copresent with love s universal address and does not lead to 
any judicial separation between the saved and the condemned. Hope, as 
confidence in the fidelity of the militant, affirms instead that every vic¬ 
tory is in reality a victory for everyone. Hope is the subjective modality 
of a victory of the universal: “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11.26). 

Just as love is the general power of self-love turned toward everyone 
as the construction of living thought, similarly, hope weaves the subjec¬ 
tivity of salvation, of the unity of thought and power, as a universality 
that is present in each ordeal, in each victory. Each victory won, however 
localized, is universal. 

For Paul, it is of utmost importance to declare that I am justified 

only insofar as everyone is. Of course, hope concerns me. But this means 
that I identify myself in my singularity as subject of the economy of sal¬ 
vation only insofar as this economy is universal. 

Hope 97 

Hope indicates that I can persevere in love only because love inau¬ 
gurates the concrete universality of the true, and this universality sub¬ 
sumes me, affects me in return. This is the strong sense of the statement 
“If I . . . have not love, I am nothing” (Cor. 1 .13.2). For Paul, universality 
mediates identity. It is the “for all” that allows me to be counted as one. 

Wherein we rediscover a major Pauline principle: the One is inaccessible 
without the “for all.” What designates and verifies my participation in 
salvation—from the moment I become a patient worker for the univer¬ 
sality of the true—is called hope. From this point of view, hope has noth¬ 
ing to do with the future. It is a figure of the present subject, who is af¬ 
fected in return by the universality for which he works. 

Theorem 8 . Where the imperative of his own continuation is con¬ 
cerned, the subject supports himself through the fact that the tak¬ 
ing-place of the truth constituting him is universal and thereby ef¬ 
fectively concerns him. There is singularity only insofar as there is 
universality. Failing that, there is, outside of truth, only particu¬ 

Universality and the Traversal 
of Differences 

That hope is the pure patience of the subject, the inclusion of self 

in the universality of the address, in no way implies that differences 

should be ignored or dismissed. For although it is true, so far as what 
the event constitutes is concerned, that there is “neither Greek nor Jew,” 
the fact is that there are Greeks and Jews. That every truth procedure 
collapses differences, infinitely deploying a purely generic multiplicity, 
does not permit us to lose sight of the fact that, in the situation (call it: 
the world), there are differences. One can even maintain that there is 
nothing else. 

The ontology underlying Pauls preaching valorizes nonbeings 

against beings, or rather, it establishes that, for the subject of a truth, 

what exists is generally held by established discourses to be nonexistent, 

while the beings validated by these discourses are, for the subject, nonex¬ 

istent. Nevertheless, these fictitious beings, these opinions, customs, dif¬ 
ferences, are that to which universality is addressed; that toward which 
love is directed; finally, that which must be traversed in order for univer¬ 
sality itself to be constructed, or for the genericity ( genericite ) of the true 
to be immanently deployed. Any other attitude would return truth, not to 
the work of love (which is unity of thought and power), but to the en¬ 
closure of that mystical fourth discourse of illumination, which Paul, 
who intends to ensure the transmission of the Good News throughout 

Universality and the Traversal of Differences 99 

the entire extent of the empire, does not want to see monopolizing and 
sterilizing the event. 

This is the reason why Paul, apostle of the nations, not only refuses 
to stigmatize differences and customs, but also undertakes to accommo¬ 
date them so that the process of their subjective disqualification might 
pass through them, within them. It is in fact the search for new differ¬ 
ences, new particularities to which the universal might be exposed.\ that 
leads Paul beyond the evental site properly speaking (the Jewish site) and 
encourages him to displace the experience historically, geographically, on- 
tologically. Whence a highly characteristic militant tonality, combining 
the appropriation of particularities with the immutability of principles, 
the empirical existence of differences with their essential nonexistence, 
according to a succession of problems requiring resolution, rather than 
through an amorphous synthesis. The text is charged with a remarkable 

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might 
win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews; to those 
under the law, I became as one under the law—though not being myself under 
the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I be¬ 
came as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the 
law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became 
weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all menj (Cor. 

This is not an opportunist text, but an instance of what Chinese 

communists will call “the mass line,” pushed to its ultimate expression in 

“serving the people.” It consists in supposing that, whatever peoples 
opinions and customs, once gripped by a truths postevental work, their 
thought becomes capable of traversing and transcending those opinions 
and customs without having to give up the differences that allow them to 
recognize themselves in the world. 

But in order for people to become gripped by truth, it is impera¬ 

tive that universality not present itself under the aspect of a particularity. 
Differences can be transcended only if benevolence with regard to cus¬ 
toms and opinions presents itself as an indifference that tolerates differ¬ 
ences, one whose sole material test lies, as Paul says, in being able and 
knowing how to practice them oneself. Whence Pauls extreme wariness 

ioo Universality and the Traversal of Differences 

with regard to every rule, every rite, that would assume the form of uni- 
versalist militantism by making of it a bearer of differences and particu¬ 
larities in turn. 

Of course, the faithful belonging to small Christian cells incessantly 
ask Paul what they should think about womens dress, sexual relations, 
permissible or prohibited foods, the calendar, astrology, and so forth. For 
it is in the nature of the human animal, as defined by networks of differ¬ 
ences, to love asking questions of this type and even to think that they 
alone are really important. Confronted with this barrage of problems far 
removed from what, for him, identifies the Christian subject, Paul dis¬ 
plays an inflexible impatience: “If anyone is disposed to be contentious, 
we do not recognize that practice” (Cor. I.n.i6).'It is in fact of utmost 
importance for the destiny of universalist labor that the latter be with¬ 

drawn from conflicts of opinion and confrontations between customary 
differences. The fundamental maxim is me eis diakriseis dialogismon , “do 
not argue about opinions” (Rom. 14.1). 

This injunction is all the more striking in that diakrisis means 
primarily “discernment of differences.” Thus, it is to the imperative not 
to compromise the truth procedure by entangling it in the web of opin¬ 
ions and differences that Paul is committed. It is certainly possible for a 
philosophy to argue about opinions; for Socrates, this is even what de¬ 

fines it. But the Christian subject is not a philosopher, and faith is nei¬ 
ther an opinion, nor a critique of opinion. Christian militantism must 
traverse worldly differences indifferently and avoid all casuistry over cus¬ 

Evidently impatient to return to the topic of resurrection, but also 
concerned lest he alienate his comrades, Paul takes great pains to explain 
that what one eats, the behavior of a servant, astrological hypotheses, and 
finally the fact of being Jewish, Greek, or anything else—all this can and 
must be envisaged as simultaneously extrinsic to the trajectory of a truth 
and compatible with it: 

One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let 
not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass 
judgment on him who eats. . . . One man esteems one day as better than an¬ 
other, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced 
in his own mind. (Rom. 14.2-5) 

Universality and the Traversal of Differences 101 

Paul goes very far in this direction, so its very odd to see him ac¬ 

cused of sectarian moralism. The opposite is the case, for we constantly 
observe him resisting demands in favor of prohibitions, rites, customs, 

observances. He does not hesitate to say “in truth, all things are clean 
[panta katharaf (Rom. 14.20). And above all, he argues against moral 
judgment, which in his eyes is an evasion before the events “for all”: 
“You, why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you 
despise your brother? . . . Then let us no more pass judgment on one an¬ 
other” (Rom. 14.10-13). 

In the end, the astonishing principle proposed by this “moralist” 
can be formulated as: everything is permitted ( panta exestin, Cor. 1 .10.23). 
Yes, within the order of particularity, everything is permitted. For if dif¬ 
ferences are the material of the world, it is only so that the singularity 
proper to the subject of truth—a singularity that is itself included in the 
becoming of the universal—can puncture that material. No need to pre¬ 
sume to judge or reduce that material so far as this puncturing is con¬ 
cerned; indeed, quite the opposite. 

That customary or particular differences are what we must let be 
from the moment we bring to bear on them the universal address and the 
militant consequences of faith (which is to say only inconsistency with re¬ 
spect to faith, or “whatever does not proceed from faith” [Rom. 14.23], 
counts as sin) can be better evaluated by considering two examples, with 
regard to which the accusation of sectarian moralism, or worse, has often 
been made against Paul: women and Jews. 

It has often been claimed that Pauline teaching inaugurated the era 

of the Christian origins of anti-Semitism. But unless one considers that 
breaking with religious orthodoxy by maintaining a singular heresy from 
within is a form of racism—which, all things considered, is an insuffer¬ 
able retrospective excess—it has to be said that there is nothing remotely 
resembling any form of anti-Semitic statement in Pauls writings. 

The accusation of “deicide,” which, it is true, burdens the Jews with 
a crushing mythological guilt, is entirely absent from Pauls discourse, for 
reasons at once anecdotal and essential. Anecdotal because, in any case— 
we have already explained why—the historical and statist process of Jesus 
putting to death, and thus the allocation of responsibilities in the matter, 
are of absolutely no interest to Paul, for whom only the Resurrection 

102 Universality and the Traversal of Differences 

matters. Essential because, amply predating as it does Trinitarian theol¬ 
ogy, Pauls thought does not base itself in any way on the theme of a sub¬ 
stantial identity of Christ and God, and there is nothing in Paul corre¬ 
sponding to the sacrificial motif of the crucified God. 

It is rather in the Gospels, and above all in the last one, Johns, that 

Jewish particularity is set apart, and the separation between Christians 

and Jews insisted upon. After the Jews’ long war against Roman occupa¬ 
tion, this probably helped elicit the goodwill of the imperial authorities, 
but it already serves to draw the Christian proposition away from its uni¬ 
versal destination, paving the way for the differentiating regime of excep¬ 
tions and exclusions. 

We find nothing of the sort in Paul. His relation to Jewish particu¬ 

larity is essentially positive. Conscious of the extent to which the evental 
site remains, genealogically and ontologically, within the heritage of bib¬ 
lical monotheism, he even goes so far, when designating the universality 
of the address, as to accord Jews a kind of priority. For instance, “Glory 
and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also 
the Greek” (Rom. 2.10). 

“For the Jew first [ Ioudaidiprdtonf : this is precisely what marks the 
Jewish difference’s pride of place in the movement traversing all differ¬ 
ences so that the universal can be constructed. This is why Paul not only 
considers the necessity of making oneself “a Jew among Jews” obvious, 
but also vigorously invokes his Jewishness so as to establish that the Jews 
are included in the universality of the Announcement: “I ask then, has 
God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descen¬ 
dant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not re¬ 
jected his people, whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11.1). 

Of course, Paul fights against all those who would submit posteven- 
tal universality to Jewish particularity. He fervently hopes to be “delivered 
from the unbelievers in Judea” (Rom. 15.31). It is the least that could be 
expected from him who identifies his faith only in being affected by the 
collapse of customary and communitarian differences. But in no way is it 
a question of judging the Jews as such, all the less so because, ultimately, 
Paul’s conviction, unlike John’s, is that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 

The truth is that Paul mobilizes the new discourse in a constant, 

Universality and the Traversal of Differences 103 

subtle strategy of displacement relative to Jewish discourse. We have al¬ 
ready remarked that references to the Old Testament are as abundant in 
Paul’s texts as those to the sayings of Christ are absent. The task Paul sets 
for himself is obviously not that of abolishing Jewish particularity, which 
he constantly acknowledges as the event’s principle of historicity, but that 
of animating it internally by everything of which it is capable relative to 
the new discourse, and hence the new subject. For Paul, being Jewish in 
general, and the Book in particular, can and must be resubjectivated. 

This operation finds a basis in the opposition between the figure of 

Moses and that of Abraham. Paul does not much like Moses, man of the 
letter and the law. By contrast, he readily identifies with Abraham for two 

very powerful reasons, both contained in a passage from the epistle to the 
Galatians (3.6): “Thus Abraham ‘believed God and it was reckoned to 
him as righteousness.’ So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons 
of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the 
Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 
‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are men of 
faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.” 

One sees here that Abraham is decisive for Paul. First because he 
was elected by God solely by virtue of his faith, before the law (which was 
engraved for Moses, Paul notes, “four hundred and thirty years later”); 
second because the promise that accompanies his election pertains to “all 
the nations,” rather than to Jewish descendants alone. Abraham thereby 
anticipates what could be called a universalism of the Jewish site; in other 
words, he anticipates Paul. A Jew among Jews, and proud of it, Paul only 
wishes to remind us that it is absurd to believe oneself a proprietor of 
God, and that an event wherein what is at issue is life’s triumph over 
death, regardless of the communitarian forms assumed by one or the 
other, activates the “for all” through which the One of genuine monothe¬ 
ism sustains itself. This is a reminder in which, once again, the Book 
plays a part in subjectivation: “He has called us not from the Jews only 
but also from the Gentiles. As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were 
not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will 
call my beloved’” (Rom. 9.24). 

Where women are concerned, it is equally false, albeit frequently 

maintained, that Paul is the founder of a Christian misogyny. We shall 

104 Universality and the Traversal of Differences 

certainly not claim that Paul, who does not want interminable quibbling 
over customs and opinions (this would involve compromising the tran¬ 
scendence of the universal through communitarian divisions), makes 
pronouncements about women that would seem appropriate to us today. 
But all things considered, there is something absurd about bringing him 
to trial before the tribunal of contemporary feminism. The only question 
worth asking is whether Paul, given the conditions of his time, is a pro¬ 
gressive or a reactionary so far as the status of women is concerned. 

One decisive factor in any case is that, in light of the fundamental 
statement that maintains that, in the element of faith, There is neither 
male nor female,” Paul clearly intends that women participate in gather- 
ings of the faithful and be able to declare the event. As a visionary mili¬ 
tant, Paul understood the resource in energy and expansion that such 
egalitarian participation would be able to mobilize. He had no wish to 
deprive himself of the presence at his side of “beloved Persis, who has 
worked hard for the Lord” (Rom. 16.12), or Julia, or Nereus’s sister. 

This suggests that the problem for Paul consists in reconciling—ac¬ 
cording to the circumstances—this requirement with the obvious and 
massive inequality affecting women in the ancient world, without the de¬ 
bate over this point hindering the movement of universalization. 

Pauls technique then becomes one of what could be called subse¬ 
quent symmetrization. Initially, he will concede what no one at the time is 
willing to call into question—for instance, the husband’s authority over 
his wife. Whence the formulation, “The wife does not rule over her own 
body, but the husband does” (Cor. 1 .7.4). Horror! Yes, but in order for a 
reminder that what matters is a truth’s universal becoming to be implic¬ 
itly slipped into this inegalitarian maxim, it will, so to speak, be neutral¬ 
ized through the subsequent mention of its reversibility. For the text con¬ 
tinues, and this continuation should really always be cited also : “And 
likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does” 
(Cor. I.7.4). 

Ultimately, Paul’s undertaking, which, in the final analysis, it is 
right to consider as a progressive innovation, consists in making univer¬ 
salizing egalitarianism pass through the reversibility of an inegalitarian rule. 
This at once allows him to avoid irresolvable arguments over the rule 
(which he assumes at the outset) and to arrange the global situation so 

Universality and the Traversal of Differences 105 

that universality is able to affect particularizing differences in return: in 
this instance, the difference between the sexes. 

Whence a technique of balancing, which, as soon as women are 
concerned, marks all of Paul’s interventions without exception. Take mar¬ 
riage, for example. Obviously, Paul begins with the inegalitarian rule “I 
give charge . . . that the wife should not separate from her husband” 
(Cor. 1 .7.10). But he immediately adds “and that the husband should not 
divorce his wife” (Cor. I.7.10). 

Let us consider a question that, in what is known as its Islamic vari¬ 
ant, enjoys a certain topicality: Should women cover their hair when in 
public? This is obviously what everyone thinks in the eastern world in 
which the apostle is trying to start militant groups. For Paul, what is im¬ 
portant is that a woman “prays or prophesies” (that a woman be able to 
“prophesy,” which for Paul means publicly declare her faith, is something 
quite considerable). Thus, he admits that “any woman who prays or 
prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her chief” (Cor. I.11.5). The 
argument is that women’s long hair indicates something like the natural 
character of veiling, and that it is appropriate to emphasize this natural 
veil with an artificial sign that ultimately pays witness to an acceptance of 
the difference between the sexes. As Paul says, for a woman, true shame 
consists in being shorn, and this is the one and only reason why, being 
summoned to declaration, she must veil herself in order to show that the 
universality of this declaration includes women who confirm that they are 
women. It is the power of the universal over difference as difference that 
is at issue here. 

It will be objected that this constraint applies solely to women, and 
hence that it is flagrantly unequal. But such is not the case, on account of 
the subsequent symmetrization. For Paul is careful to specify that “any 
man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his chief” 
(Cor. I.11.4), and that it is as shameful for a man to have long hair as it is 
for a woman to have short hair. The necessity of traversing and testifying 
to the difference between the sexes in order for it to become indifferent i$ 
the universality of the declaration culminates in symmetrical, rather than 
unilateral, constraints within the contingent realm of customs. 

Perhaps echoing a hierarchical vision of the world that was ubiqui¬ 
tous at the time, and whose Roman version was the cult of the emperor, 

io 6 Universality and the Traversal of Differences 

Paul does declare that “the chief of every man is Christ, the chief of a 
woman is her husband, and the chief of Christ is God” (Cor. I.11.3). 
Moreover, it is precisely the ambiguity of the word kephale (still audible 
in the ancient word “chief”) that allows him to move from this theo- 
logico-cosmic disquisition to an examination of the perilous question of 
the womens veil. As expected, the basis is provided by the narrative in 
Genesis: “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man” 
(8). The question seems settled: Paul proposes a solid religious basis for 
the subjugation of women. Well actually, not at all. Three lines further 
down, a vigorous “nevertheless” ( plen ) introduces the subsequent sym- 
metrization, which, opportunely reminding us that every man is born of 
a woman, leads the whole of this inegalitarian edifice back to an essential 
equality: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, 
nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now 
born of woman” (Cor. L11.11). 

Th us, Paul remains faithful to his twofold conviction. With regard 
to what has happened to us, to what we subjectivate through a public 
declaration (faith), to what we universalize through a fidelity (love), and 
with which we identify our subjective consistency in time (hope)>d^ 
ences are indifferent, and the universality of the true collapses them. 

With regard to the world in which truth proceeds, universality must ex¬ 
pose itself to all differences and show, through the ordeal of their divi¬ 
sion, that they are capable of welcoming the truth that traverses them. 
What matters, man or woman, Jew or Greek, slave or free man, is that 
differences carry the universal that happens to them like a grace. Inversely, 
only by recognizing in differences their capacity for carrying the univer¬ 
sal that comes upon them can the universal itself verify its own reality: “If 
even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give dis¬ 
tinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played on the flute or 
the harp?” (Cor. 1 .14.7). 

Differences, like instrumental tones, provide us with the recogniza¬ 
ble univocity that makes up the melody of the True. 

In Conclusion 

We gave this book the subtitle The Foundation ofUniversalism. It is, 

of course, an excessive title. Real universalism is already entirely present 

in this or that theorem of Archimedes, in certain political practices of the 

Greeks, in a tragedy of Sophocles, or in the amorous intensity to which 

thep oems of Sappho bear witness. It is just as present in the Psalms, or, 

inverted into nihilism, in the lamentations of Ecclesiastes. 

Nevertheless, there occurs with Paul, on this very issue, a powerful 

break, one that is still illegible in the teaching of Jesus, insofar we have ac¬ 

cess to it. Only this break illuminates the immense echo of the Christian 

The difficulty for us is that this break has no bearing on the explicit 
content of the doctrine. The Resurrection, after all, is just a mythological 
assertion. The claim “there is a limitless succession of prime numbers” 
possesses an indubitable universality. The claim “Christ is resurrected” is 
as though subtracted from the opposition between the universal and the 
particular, because it is a narrative statement that we cannot assume to be 

In reality, the Pauline break has a bearing upon the formal condi¬ 
tions and the inevitable consequences of a consciousness-of-truth rooted 
in a pure event, detached from every objectivist assignation to the partic¬ 
ular laws of a world or society yet concretely destined to become in- 

io8 In Conclusion 

scribed within a world and within a society. What Paul must be given ex¬ 
clusive credit for establishing is that the fidelity to such an event exists 
only through the termination of communitarian particularisms and the 

determination of a subject-of-truth who indistinguishes the One and the 

“for all.” Th us, unlike effective truth procedures (science, art, politics, 
love), the Pauline break does not base itself upon the production of a uni¬ 
versal. Its bearing, in a mythological context implacably reduced to a sin¬ 
gle point, a single statement (Christ is resurrected), pertains rather to the 
laws of universality in general. This is why it can be called a theoretical 
break, it being understood that in this instance “theoretical” is not being 
opposed to “practical,” but to real. Paul is a founder, in that he is one of 
the very first theoreticians of the universal. 

A second difficulty is then that Paul could be identified as a 
philosopher. I have myself maintained that what is proper to philosophy 
is not the production of universal truths, but rather the organization of 
their synthetic reception by forging and reformulating the category of 
Truth. Auguste Comte defined the philosopher as one who “specialized 
in generalities.” Is not Paul someone who specializes in the general cate¬ 
gories of all universalism? 

We will suspend this objection by claiming that Paul is not a 
philosopher precisely because he assigns his thought to a singular event, 
rather than a set of conceptual generalities. That this singular event is of 
the order of a fable prohibits Paul from being an artist, or a scientist, or a 
revolutionary of the State, but also prohibits all access to philosophical 
subjectivity, which either subordinates itself to conceptual foundation or 
auto-foundation, or places itself under the condition of real truth proce¬ 
dures. For Paul, the truth event repudiates philosophical Truth, while for 
us the fictitious dimension of this event repudiates its pretension to real 

Accordingly, we must say: \Paul is an antiphilosophical theoretician of 
universality. That the event (or pure act) invoked by antiphilosophers is 
fictitious does not present a problem. It is equally so in Pascal (it is the 
same as Pauls), or in Nietzsche (Nietzsche’s “grand politics” did not break 
the history of the world in two; it was Nietzsche who was broken). 

Antiphilosopher of genius, Paul warns the philosopher that the 
conditions for the universal cannot be conceptual, either in origin, or in 


In Conclusion 109 

So far as the origin is concerned, it is necessary that an event, which 
is a sort of grace supernumerary to every particularity, be what one pro¬ 
ceeds from in order to cast off differences. 

So far as the destination is concerned, it can be neither predicative 

nor judicial. There is no authority before which the resul t of a truth pro¬ 

cedure could be brought to trial. A truth never appertains to Critique. It 
is supported only by itself and is the correlate of a new type of subject, 
neither transcendental nor substantial, entirely defined as militant of the 
truth in question. 

This is why, as Paul testifies in exemplary fashion, universalism, 
which is an absolute (nonrelative) subjective production, indistinguishes 
saying and doing, thought and power. Thought becomes universal only 
by addressing itself to all others, and it effectuates itself as power through 
this address. But the moment all, including the solitary militant, are 
counted according to the universal, it follows that what takes place is the 
subsumption of the Other by the Same. Paul demonstrates in detail how 
a universal thought, proceeding on the basis of the worldly proliferation 
of alterities (the Jew, the Greek, women, men, slaves, free men, and so 
on), produces a Sameness and an Equality (there is no longer either Jew, 
or Greek, and so on). The production of equality and the casting off, in 
thought, of differences are the material signs of the universal. 

Against universalism conceived of as production of the Same, it has 
recently been claimed that the latter found its emblem, if not its culmi¬ 

nation, in the death camps, where everyone, having been reduced to a 
body on the verge of death, was absolutely equal to everyone else. This 

“argument” is fraudulent, for two major reasons. The first is that, in read¬ 
ing Primo Levi or Shalamov, one sees that, on the contrary, the death 
camp produces exorbitant differences at every instant, that it turns the 
slightest fragment of reality into an absolute difference between life and 
death, and this incessant differentiation of the minute is a torture. The 
second, more directly relevant to Paul, is that one of the necessary condi¬ 
tions of thought as power (which, let us remind ourselves, is love) consists 
in he who is a militant of the truth identifying himself, as well as every¬ 
one else, on the basis of the universal. The production of the Same is itself 
internal to the law of the Same. But the Nazis’ production of extermina¬ 
tory abattoirs obeyed the opposite principle: the “meaning” proper to the 
mass production of Jewish corpses was that of delimiting the existence of 

iio In Conclusion 

the master race as absolute difference. The address to the other of the “as 
oneself” (love the other as yourself) was what the Nazis wanted to abol¬ 
ish. The German Aryans “as oneself” was precisely what could not be 
projected anywhere, a closed substance, continuously driven to verify its 
own closure, both in and outside itself, through carnage. 

Pauls maxim, which is that of the dissolution of the universalizing 
subject s identity in the universal, makes of the Same that which must be 
achieved, even if it includes, when necessary, altering our own alterity. 

For the subject, this subjective logic culminates in an indifference 
to secular nominations, to whatever allocates predicates and hierarchical 
values to particular subsets. Hope outstrips these nominations. The epis¬ 
tle to the Philippians (2.9) speaks of Christ as “the name which is above 
every name.” It is always to such names, rather than to the closed names 
proper to particular languages and sealed entities, that the subject of a 
truth lays claim. All true names are “above every name.” They let them¬ 
selves be inflected and declared, just as mathematical symbolism does, in 
every language, according to every custom, and through the traversal of 
all differences. 

Every name from which a truth proceeds is a name from before the 

Tower of Babel. But it has to circulate in the tower. 

Paul, we have insisted, is not a dialectician. The universal is not the 
negation of particularity. It is the measured advance across a distance rel¬ 
ative to perpetually subsisting particularity. Every particularity is a con¬ 
formation, a conformism. It is a question of maintaining a nonconfor¬ 
mity with regard to that which is always conforming us. Thought is 
subjected to the ordeal of conformity, and only the universal, through an 
uninterrupted labor, an inventive traversal, relieves it. As Paul magnifi¬ 
cently puts it, “Do not be conformed to the present century, but be trans¬ 
formed by the renewal of your thought \nous here, and not pneuma , so 
that it is better not to translate it as “spirit”]” (Rom. 12.2). 

Far from fleeing from the century, one must live with it, but with¬ 

out letting oneself be shaped, conformed. It is the subject, rather than 
the century, who, under the injunction of his faith, must be trans¬ 
formed. And the key to this transformation, this “renewal,” lies in 

Paul says to us: it is always possible for a nonconformist thought to 

In Conclusion hi 

think in the century. This is what a subject is. It is he who maintains the 
universal, not conformity. 

Only what is in immanent exception is universal. 

But if everything depends on an event, must we wait? Certainly 
not. Many events, even very distant ones, still require us to be faithful to 

them. Thought does not wait, and it has never exhausted its reserve of 
power, unless it be for him who succumbs to the profound desire to con¬ 
form, which is the path of death. 

Besides, waiting is pointless, for it is of the essence of the event not 

to be preceded by any sign, and to catch us unawares with its grace, re¬ 
gardless of our vigilance. 

In Zarathustras dialogue with the fire-dog, Nietzsche says that true 
events arrive on doves feet, that they surprise us in the moment of great¬ 
est silence. On this point, as on many others, he should have acknowl¬ 
edged his debt to that same Paul upon whom he pours out his scorn. First 
epistle to the Thessalonians (5.2): “The day of the Lord will come like a 
thief in the night.” 

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Patricia Pisters, The Matrix of Visual Culture: Working with Deleuze in 
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Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity 

Dorothea von Miiclce, The Rise of the Fantastic Tale 

Marc Redfield, The Politics of Aesthetics: Nationalism, Gender, Romanti¬ 

Emmanuel Levinas, On Escape 

Dan Zahavi, Husserl’s Phenomenology 

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Brett Levinson, The Ends of Literature: The Latin American “Boom” in 
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Niklas Luhmann, The Reality of the Mass Media 

Hubert Damisch, A Childhood Memory by Piero della Francesca 

Hubert Damisch, A Theory of/Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting 

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Speculative Remark (One of Hegel’s Bons Mots) 

Jean-Fran^ois Lyotard, Soundproof Room: Malraux’s Anti-Aesthetics 

Jan Patocka, Plato and Europe 

Hubert Damisch, Skyline: The Narcissistic City 

Isabel Hoving, In Praise of New Travelers: Reading Caribbean Migrant 
Women Writers 

Richard Rand, ed., Futures: Of Jacques Derrida 

William Rasch, Niklas Luhmann’s Modernity: The Paradoxes of Differen¬ 

Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality 
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Samuel Weber, Institution and Interpretation, expanded edition 

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Samuel C. Wheeler III, Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy 

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Rodolphe Gasche, Of Minimal Things: Studies on the Notion of Relation 

Sarah Winter, Freud and the Institution of Psychoanalytic Knowledge 

Samuel Weber, The Legend of Freud, expanded edition 

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J. Hillis Miller, Black Holes', and Manuel Asensi,/ Hillis Miller; or, 
Boustrophedonic Reading 

Miryam Sas, Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism 

Peter Schwenger, Fantasm and Fiction: On Textual Envisioning 

Didier Maleuvre, Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art 

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Andrew Baruch Wachtel, Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation: Litera¬ 
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Niklas Luhmann, Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy 

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“This book is a daring and provocative confrontation of religion and 
secular practice, the aim of which is to recover the radical core of 
Pauls militant philosophical, or antiphilosophical,’ project.” 

— James I. Porter, University of Michigan 

In this bold and provocative work, French philosopher Alain Badiou proposes a 
startling reinterpretation of St. Paul. For Badiou, Paul is neither the venerable 
saint embalmed by Christian tradition, nor the venomous priest execrated by 
philosophers like Nietzsche: he is instead a profoundly original and still revolu¬ 
tionary thinker whose invention of Christianity weaves truth and subjectivity 
together in a way that continues to be relevant for us today. 

In this work, Badiou argues that Paul delineates a new figure of the subject: 
the bearer of a universal truth that simultaneously shatters the strictures of 
Judaic Law and the conventions of the Greek Logos. Badiou shows that the 
Pauline figure of the subject still harbors a genuinely revolutionary potential 
today: the subject is that which refuses to submit to the order of the world as we 
know it and struggles for a new one instead. 

Cultural Memory in the Present 

Alain Badiou holds the Chair of Philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supirieure in Paris. 
Many of his books have been published in English , including Manifesto for Philo¬ 
sophy, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, and Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding 
of Evil. 


Cover design: Preston Thomas 

ISBN O-8047-4471-8